On Tuesday, March 24, I will become a student.
A high school student.
I teach a class called Converged Newsroom – it is Carroll High School’s online newspaper called The Charger. One of my senior students and I were discussing her next article idea, and suddenly I was hit with a (not-so?) brilliant idea.
She and I would swap spots for a day.
It started as a fun thought, a maybe. Kind of one of those ideas that I love to brainstorm but wonder if it will ever come to fruition. But after meeting with all the proper administrative channels, we got a big, wonderful, scary, green light.
Talk about this being my Year of the Brave. Actually, I am not often scared of new situations – I have adventured through a lot of change in my 39 year career as a person. But as I begin to think about my role and what it is, and how that will be changing for a day, I have several thoughts pinging around in my brain.
Will I remember anything from high school?
The student I am “swapping” with has some great classes – a Psychology class, AP Language and Composition, Sign Language, Economics, Speech & Debate… but how much of that do I ACTUALLY remember? I’ve even asked Steph (that’s her name) to give me a brush up before I pull on my jeans and sling a bookbag over my shoulder.
I mean, I teach English, right? So venturing into the English classroom I am going to be golden…correct?
But Psych? Economics? I think I know the alphabet in sign language. I might have to do some extra outside reading assignments in the next few days. My Master’s degree is in Theatre, so Speech and Debate should be a cake walk…I think.
Where do I sit at lunch?
Now, Steph has assured me I have a seat at the Speech and Debate table. But what is the “routine” for lunch? Where do I go?
I teach at the Freshman Center, which is a separate building from the 10-12 students. Therefore, this is more than a swap for me. It’s a journey into the jungles of the unknown. I go over there on occasion to visit my colleagues or attend a meeting, but I don’t even know where the teacher mailboxes are let alone how to eat my lunch.
Should I brown bag it or buy? Does it even matter?
How long is lunch?
How do I navigate?
I will have to re-learn how to operate a locker combination in record minutes. In one day I will have to master the art of choosing the correct books and navigating through the hallways in the correct manner in order to make it to class on time.
Which halls are congested the most at what times in what locations?
I will not have this trickery under my belt, so I will have to brave the wildest seas to commandeer my ship. I will be depending on students to point me in the right direction – and who knows how this will all pan out.
My colleagues are aware that this exchange will be occurring, so I am sure some of them have some interesting plans up their sleeves. I will not only have to navigate the treacherous hallways, but I will also have to steer through the muddy waters of note-taking and discernment as I pick up on classroom routines and strategies that have been established for almost an entire semester.
What do I hope to learn?
Well, this experiment is certainly NOT an expose into the dark recesses of underground high school life. It is an opportunity for both Steph and myself to shift our perspectives for a day. I am constantly preaching to my students about perspective, so maybe it’s my turn to take a shift at walking in their shoes for a school day.
Even if I merely remember that small anxious feeling that arises when you walk into a crowded cafeteria for the first time, or the quick intake of breath when you aren’t sure if you’ll make it to class before the bell – that’s well worth the reminder that my students are not just students.
They are people.
The whole concept of teaching upside down, the philosophy I’ve been slogging through to discover the best ways to reach my students – this is going to be a key element. To ACTUALLY walk in Steph’s shoes for a day is a privilege I am going to soak in. Every minute. I want to re-learn what it is to be my self circa 1994. I want to translate that same girl into someone who is high school-ing it in 2015.
These high school people have a lot more going on than just school.
There are so many other things that contribute to what is happening in a student’s day than just my class, my words, and my assignments. They have friends, fears, feelings that all creep into their experience as a high school student and have higher priority than that essay due next period.
And I am going to relive it all again.
Steph and I will be writing articles on our experiences plummeting into one another’s worlds, so look for a follow-up post regaling my journey into the world of the people I love to teach.
If I make it back.
I’ll see you soon.
It will be the best day ever. I am choosing it.
But just to be safe, keep me in your prayers.