Shadow a Student: Challenge Accepted!

I’ve been in enough Twitter chats and “coffee room” conversations where we talk about the need to be more empathetic for  our students.  We say all the right things about how important it is to have empathy and lead our schools from the lens of our students.  In those same conversations, we also talk about the fact that if we had more time, we would love to spend a day in our student’s shoes.

Everyone affirms the sentiment, and we add it to our bucket list of somedays…

Version 2It should have not come as a shock when I saw a little chatter from IDEO talking about a shadowing experience for school leaders.  They have been a great professional asset to me in utilizing design thinking strategies and processes to better lead as a district administrator.  As I networked with them to get more information, I learned about their partnership with the and School Retool.  With my experiences and background in design thinking, I jumped at the chance to learn more about the Shadow a Student Challenge.

The gauntlet has been thrown down.  The line has been drawn in the sand.  It’s time to put down our coffee and block off time on our calendars.  The Shadow a Student Challenge is a chance for us to join together with our educational leaders in an international movement to shadow a student for one day between February 19 and March 2.

No meetings.  No duties. No excuses.

It’s time to lace up your Air Jordans and break out your favorite hoodie or flannel from the closet.

The challenge is to shadow a student.  Ride the bus to school with him. Walk the halls with her.  Traverse the hallways between bells and try to eat your lunch in time.  Get to know him.  What does he like about the school?  What does she dislike?  What could be better?  What are you missing?

The number one question I hear is who you should select to shadow.  It’s up to you.  You can’t go wrong.  And, it’s not like it has to be a “one-and-done” event – you can always do it again.  A few hours after sharing this challenge with my district team, emails were flying with building and district administrators, directors, and coaches rising to the challenge.  By invoking the power of your Professional Learning Network, you could strategize to cover the various “people groups” in your schools.  It might be a gifted student.  A student with special needs.  A student who just moved to the district.  The class president.  Or, a student that seems to “fly under the radar”.  A student whose interest is in the arts, computers, sports, or skateboarding.  You might want to shadow an English Limited student.  Or, a student who has been on your heart for quite some time.

In keeping up with this the Shadow a Student Experience Challenge, I have a few challenges of my own:

  • Talk with your District Leadership Team about the Challenge and leverage your team to shadow as well as cover your building for you when you are shadowing on your day;
  • Pick a date between Feb 19-March 2 to shadow a student;
  • Select and approach a student to shadow;
  • Be a part of the action by signing up to receive more information in the future: Shadow a Student Challenge: Sign Up Now
  • Begin journaling your experience now! You are going to see a lot of cool things happen the moment you commit to this – things to you, around you, with your student, in your school, and in your community!

I’ve always been one who likes a good challenge, and I am most excited for what this experience will do for me and my school!  I would love to capture and learn with you from this amazing experience, so feel free to add comments below to keep me posted or find me on Twitter (@drneilgupta) and share your updates and insights on how the experience changes your work as a leader!

Good luck!




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