Liberty Middle School uses student shadowing days to learn more about challenges students face

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MADISON, Ala. - For many educators and school district administrators, it's been a while since they sat in a classroom as a student. That's one reason Liberty Middle School educators and district leaders began shadowing students this year - to get some perspective.

Federal Programs Coordinator Natalia Dooley's desk is normally at Madison City Schools' Central Office, but on Wednesday, it was at Liberty Middle.

"While I work with the teachers all the time, and I see students and observing classrooms, I feel like I'm a little disconnected from everyday life," Dooley explained.

On Wednesday, she shadowed a student for the day, including extracurricular activities and break times.

"I'm shadowing an EL student, English learners student, and this is one of the programs I work with at the central office," Dooley said. "I'm very curious, what does his life look like, feel like?"

As Dooley worked through a morning math lesson, she said it took her a few minutes to focus in on the class after the business of the morning routine.

"I had a number of things going through my head, 'Where's my locker again? Can I get to it next time? I don't know if I can open it now, where's my combination?'" Dooley explained. "So, I couldn't even focus on the class."

Assistant Principal Kary Roberts also paired with a student for a day of shadowing.

"One of the biggest things was the homework load and how much is expected of our children, how much our middle schoolers actually have on them," Roberts said. "So, if they're doing sports and have after school activities, it's really just a lot when we have such high standards."

The shadowing day gives students and educators a full day in the classroom to learn more than just a math lesson.

"When we look at things as adults, it feels like students have time for certain things, it feels like students have opportunities during the day," Dooley said. "Then, we hear a little bit different story from the students."

The district takes the information they gather from the shadowing and looks for new ways educators can help students overcome certain challenges.