Source: Sherman Publications

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!)