Student Shadowing: A Challenge for All Educators

Published On: February 16th, 2016·By ·

A Great Way to Gain Insight and Empathy with Student Shadowing

Do you ever get frustrated by those students who seem a million miles away or whose eyes glaze over about 5 minutes into class? Or by the ones who ask the same question just asked by another student? It’s easy to get aggravated, make a sarcastic remark, or write them off as lazy and unmotivated.

But have you ever thought of what a school day might be like from your students’ perspective? If you were able to experience classes through their eyes, would it change how you teach or cause you to rethink certain guidelines, policies, or actions? Consider student shadowing – an excellent professional learning practice that can benefit all educators and students.

In student shadowing, teachers and administrators gain valuable insight as they go class to class doing all the activities and assignments that the students are required to do. To get the most out of the experience, you can’t just pop in here and there for a few minutes in each class. You need to spend the entire day with a student and do everything the student does – listen to lectures, take notes, work on class projects, take quizzes, and sit quietly. Don’t just observe. You need to do ALL the work and activities the student does!student shadowing

This practice has gained attention in the last couple of years, due in part to an inspiring blog post by Grant Wiggins. But it was brought to my attention most recently by Jonathan Martin, an educational consultant and former high school principal who has shadowed students at dozens of schools. For him, the experience was transformational. In a recent blog post on student shadowing, Jonathan explains that “Student shadowing, simply put, changed my life.” Wow!

In an upcoming webinar with SimpleK12, Shadowing Students: 6 Suggestions for Best Practice, Jonathan will discuss how you can make the most of this eye-opening experience. In addition, he will explore why this is a valuable practice and share what he and others have learned from their experiences.

February 29 through March 4 has been designated by School Retool and Stanford Design School as the week educators everywhere are encouraged to commit to shadowing a student for a school day. Consider that challenge, whether you are an administrator or teacher.

Maybe you’ll discover some things you’re doing right, maybe you’ll discover a few things you really want to change, and maybe you’ll discover some really cool things (or not-so-cool things) the teacher down the hall is doing! Perhaps you’ll gain more empathy for your students. What will your takeaways be?

Give it a shot and try walking a mile or two in your students’ shoes!


Sari Arcuri is the Content Manager at A parent and former teacher, she loves finding education-related webinar topics that can help K-12 educators do their jobs easier and better! If you have ideas for educational topics and tools you’d like to know more about, please send your suggestions or tip to

Professional Development made simple

We offer flexible classes that address the needs of teachers and schools to support today’s classrooms and increase student success

Latest posts

Sign up for our newsletter