Source: Sherman Publications

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Undercover Superintendent
Ginopolis shadows students as they go through their daily schedule

March 30, 2011

By Marion Ginopolis, Superintendent

Lake Orion Community Schools

Well, not literally but I'm sure that I now have your attention! Actually, I did "throw" two pots at the high school on a pottery wheel during Ms. Candy Garbaugh's ceramics class when I participated as a high school student shadowing Junior Kristin Kevnik throughout her entire school day.

Some of you more seasoned readers may remember a radio show called The Shadow or a more recent TV program called Undercover Boss. Well, I'm not undercover; rather I am experiencing our district through the eyes of students by shadowing them . Shadowing a student is the most valuable experience I believe an administrator can have to gain a true understanding of what our students experience and of our school programs/curriculum as opposed to just going in and observing classrooms for a brief "snapshot."

My student day began in Kate Cavanaugh's Spanish 3 class and, having majored in Spanish as an undergraduate, I was able to participate in all activities "con mucho gusto" (with pleasure, no trouble at all.)

Next class was Pre-Calculus and I was very apprehensive that I might be called on to respond to a question because it's been a long time since I opened that textbook. To my surprise, I actually remembered some of this and raised my hand and correctly answered a question. Not only was I surprised, I think I stunned Mr. Jim Manzo and the class!

On to Human Anatomy that I think was a set-up by Ms. Melissa Hudson! The lesson was on various heart health conditions that caused my blood pressure to rise when I learned more than I ever wanted to know about the causes of heart attacks.

In Advanced Placement Micro-Economics, Mr. Don McLaughlin engaged us in a simulation activity that mirrored the principles of economics that apply to the functions of individual decision makers. Despite keeping my eyes down so I wouldn't be selected, I was chosen and I did OK, thanks to the support and encouragement of my classmates.

So, how would I summarize my student day? I learned that a student's day is exhausting and that doesn't include the extension of the day with homework assignments that, thankfully, I was not assigned. I saw teachers display warmth and caring to students and, by incorporating humor, they made lessons fun and inviting. I learned that next time I shadow a student I'll wear running shoes so I can make it to class on time as I race through the halls of our huge high school.

Most important, I learned why our schools receive an "A" on the Michigan School Report Card and why our students perform in the top 7 out of the 28 Oakland County School Districts on the Michigan Merit Exam and Advanced Placement Exam. This is a direct result of excellent teaching, engaged students, and well planned activities.

(Stay tuned for my next adventure shadowing a middle school student Heaven help me!)