When Teachers Become Students


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With the holiday break coming to an end, students are bracing for the tough schedule that lies ahead. And it's not just the academic challenges they are preparing for, but also mundane ones like keeping up with constantly changing schedules and getting to classes in time. What if teachers could start the New Year by switching sides and experiencing what their students go through? That is exactly what some educators at Burr and Burton Academy, an independent high school in Manchester, Vermont, did and what they discovered, can only be described as eye opening.

The unusual swap idea suggested by students from the school's Tech Research class as a way to better the overall school experience, occurred in early 2013. Five teachers bravely volunteered to take on the Student for the day Challenge and see for themselves the hardships the kids faced every day.

Their life as students began the prior night, with homework. While some enjoyed it, Social Studies and Psychology teacher Dave Mirceli, was not as enthusiastic. This was not surprising given that he spent two hours doing the AP Calculus assignment only to discover the following day, that it was all wrong!

The school day was no better. While most thought getting in at 7.30 am was a luxury, it went downhill from there. First, there were the hard uncomfortable chairs that got even more so, as the day progressed. Then, there was the pressure of making it from one class to another within the allotted five minutes. The half-hour long lunch break that provided barely enough time to eat and almost none to socialize, did not make things any easier. Then there were the backpacks that got increasingly heavier as they rushed from one class to another. But worst of all was staying focused for the entire day. Most of them admitted that the 90-minute sessions, especially for subjects they did not enjoy, were excruciating to get through. All in all, though they had fun swapping for a day, none of the teachers seemed to want to repeat the experience.

It is not clear whether the realization of all the 'hardships' faced by the students led to any permanent changes but the teachers that participated all agreed that going forward, they would have more empathy for their students.

Though no other US school has followed Burr and Burton's lead, Stanford researcher Denise Pope who has personally shadowed high school students at over 100 institutions for her book - Doing School: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed Out, Materialistic, and Miseducated Students, is a strong proponent of the experiment. She believes it will help educators better understand the constant pressure the students are under and thinks that just a few minor tweaks could help make their overall school experience a lot better! Hopefully, more educators will decide to take up this challenge in 2014!

Resources: news.yahoo.com,blogs.kqed.org

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  • blah blah blahMonday, April 29, 2019 at 6:18 am
    o um yeah like, the teachers really dont understand what we kids go through and they rhink its like, way better than teaching but they got it all wrong
    • elizabethMonday, February 27, 2017 at 7:45 am
      that would be cool to go from a teacher to a student and did you see how much time they got from class to class?
      • melony Wednesday, April 20, 2016 at 12:52 pm
        nice work
        • shivi483
          shivi483Friday, January 23, 2015 at 2:52 am
          Its wired how when you do maths you still have to learn simple and easy addition and subtraction problems especially in high school
          • nikukyu
            nikukyuFriday, January 23, 2015 at 12:20 am
            Really want to do this at my school!
            • parker818332
              parker818332Monday, September 15, 2014 at 1:32 pm
              I want to be the teacher
              • mysteriousbird
                mysteriousbirdFriday, September 5, 2014 at 7:29 pm
                I wish we could do this in my school because the students understands what the teachers go through, but some of the teachers don't even think about how much stress we actually go through.
                • shivi483
                  shivi483Friday, January 23, 2015 at 2:50 am
                  nice thoughts
                  • parker818332
                    parker818332Monday, September 15, 2014 at 1:31 pm
                    I agree
                  • midnighthowler
                    midnighthowlerMonday, July 7, 2014 at 6:10 am
                    I think the should do it for a week.
                    • sniper-guy007
                      sniper-guy007Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 12:13 pm
                      Good idea
                      • cutiegirl5034
                        cutiegirl5034Monday, March 31, 2014 at 1:36 pm
                        Good Idea They Should Seriously Consider This For One Day!