WESTERLY — When Mr. Morrone asked Ana Stebbins whether she would like to have "a shadow" for a day, she answered quickly.

"I said of course because it would be so fun to have someone following me around," Ana, a fourth-grade student at Dunn's Corners Elementary School, said Tuesday.

Mr. Morrone is Steven Morrone, the school's principal. Ana's shadow was Lisa Foehr, chief of teaching and learning for the state Department of Education. The two were participating in the Shadow a Student Challenge, a national initiative of School Retool, a professional development fellowship that helps school leaders redesign their school cultures.

Foehr arrived in time to meet Ana and attend her daily morning meeting. From then she was at Ana's side for the entire morning and planned to stay for part of the afternoon.

"It's invaluable for people such as myself. In the Department of Education we're thinking about and talking about education all day long but we're not in the schools every day. This keeps us grounded in the reality of what happens in school," Foehr, a former high school teacher, said.

While in Ana's art class, Foehr worked on making a silhouette with the rest of the class. "She's very open to having a guest," Foehr said of Ana, her partner for the day.

In reading class, Foehr sat next to Ana as teacher Kimberly Cleary led a lesson focused on identifying parts of a sentence such as linking words and transitional phrases, developing character traits, and recognizing what a concluding statement looks and sounds like.

As a 15-year employee of the state education department, Foehr said she has often visited schools for tours led by district superintendents.

"But this is different because we get to see it as they experience it. It's a great opportunity to see the school day through the lens of a student," Foehr said.

In art class, Ana and her classmates were asked to plan how they would go about making their silhouette. "Being one-on-one is a chance to understand how students think and how they're approaching tasks and interacting with others," Foehr said.

Ten-year-old Ana, who was her school's student of the month in January, said she enjoyed showing Foehr around the school "and showing her what we do."

"I feel like it's cool and fun," she said.

Morrone had planned to shadow a student on Tuesday but the snow day on Monday caused him to move his shadow day to today, when he planned to spend the day with a member of the kindergarten class. Kindergarten teachers and students are working with a new curriculum this year.

"The goal for me is to see what is the daily life like as a student at the school,"  Morrone said. "Hopefully I can gain some information and provide feedback to the teachers."

When he has shadowed students in the past, Morrone said, the experience "highlights the work and highlights the student and shows they work hard. You also see what the students value."

Through the Shadow a Student Challenge and School Retool, teachers and administrators share their experience with each other through social media. "It brings schools from all over together on one project — looking through the lens of a student and having a conversation about it," Morrone said.


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