Student Shadowing Provides Insights Into Learning

Principal sits in the back of classroom.Student shadowing is offering important revelations for the principal at Middleburgh Jr./Sr. High School. Matthew Sloane has been shadowing students regularly since he began his tenure in Middleburgh. He says it’s extremely informative for his work supporting students and faculty.

This year, Mr. Sloane began student shadowing in October. He has since shadowed multiple students. Each student Sloane shadows is randomly chosen. Then, the day unfolds with Sloane experiencing both scheduled and unscheduled events in real-time with the student. 

Principal takes exam with students in classroom.During a Feb. 29 experience, Sloane found himself presented with a quiz after walking into a chemistry class (he passed) and felt the dynamics of what happened when Spanish teacher Lisa Himme was called in to cover the Small Animal Class usually taught by Carmen Fagnani. Sloane watched as Himme announced the lesson plans that Fagnani had provided. First assignment of the day: chores.

Students cleaning small-animal cages in classroom.Sloane says there is no substitute for seeing classroom learning from this perspective. 

“It’s an opportunity to see how students behave and react to external pressures, like having a late lunch period or a substitute teacher,” said Sloane. 

He admitted that the 12:45 p.m. lunch, which was scheduled on this particular shadowing day, would be a challenge for him personally. Besides experiencing distracting hunger,Principal plays guitar alongside student. there are deeper observations that come from student shadowing.

“I get a new perception when I immerse myself into the feeling of walking into a classroom and not yet understanding the subject material,” said Sloane. “Also, students have to ‘code switch’ throughout the day, adapting to the nuances of each teacher’s style of communication.”

Chemistry teacher Cyrus Rivet was among the teachers who had Sloane in his classroom. He sees the benefit.

“As adults, we have our perceptions about what it’s like to be a student,” Rivet said. “It’s important to put ourselves in their shoes and understand what life is like for a student in 2024.”

Chemistry teacher in classroom.

Sophomore Caleb Mickle was randomly chosen for the Feb. 29 shadowing. Sloane participated in homeroom, Algebra 2, Chemistry, Band, Small Animal Care, AP World History, and English 10 Honors with Mickle.

Caleb said, “It’s cool that he is seeing a student’s experience.”

Principal looks at paper with students.Sloane says student shadowing inspires improvements, both big and small. It is so powerful for gaining perspective, he would do it every couple of weeks if he could and he recommends the experience to faculty members.