What's in a school day?
Math teacher David Sladkey and senior James Kim reflect on the Shadow A Student challenge and discuss the rigors of a high school student’s schedule
Written by Amisha Sethi in conjunction with David Sladkey and James Kim

Early this month, as part of the #ShadowAStudent challenge, math teacher David Sladkey shadowed senior James Kim for an entire school day to gain the perspective of being a high school student at Naperville Central. 

This marks the third time Sladkey has participated in the challenge. In 2011 he shadowed Neal Hasan, who was a freshman at the time, and in 2014 he shadowed Kyle Forest, who was then a junior. After each experience, Sladkey has posted on his personal blog about lessons he has learned as a high school math teacher. 

Both Sladkey and Kim thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Kim appreciated having a teacher as a sort of companion throughout the day, while Sladkey gained new insight into a typical high schooler’s day. 

Both agreed to share their recent experience with Central Times.

Sladkey's account

James is a senior here at Naperville Central High School that I have known from when he was a soccer player on the freshman team that I coached. I recently had the opportunity to shadow James to see what it feels like to be a student at this school. He graciously allowed me to follow him around for an entire day of classes, even lunch and PE, and I had a blast. What a great day!

The question that students asked me over and over all day was WHY?  Why are you shadowing a student? My quick answer was, through every day.” It was an eye-opening experience and I’m so grateful to our administration for encouraging me to do this. 

1.  I sat in my seat for five 50-minute periods without moving.  STUDENTS NEED TO MOVE IN CLASS. 

2.  I went with a group of friends to Dunkin Donuts for lunch. We all brought our lunches in and some of the guys ordered donuts for dessert.  I had never before realized the positives of going out to lunch. The change of pace that occurs from taking a break in the middle of the day was amazing.    CHOICE AND FREEDOM ARE LIFE GIVING.

3.  I met Harold in Anatomy and Physiology class.  We became very close in a short amount of time.  You see, we were dissecting Harold the rabbit. That was a complete thrill.  LEARNING BY DOING was one of my favorite things of the day.

4.  I got called out for having the wrong shirt in PE class.  Thankfully my dad did not receive a call from school. KNOW THE RULES.

5.  Students are basically working from 7:45 to 3:15 at school—a 7.5 hour workday.  And that doesn’t include the hours of homework. It is exhausting. WE TEACHERS GIVE TOO MUCH HOMEWORK. I’m glad I didn’t have to do all the homework James had to do that night.  I vow to lower my homework demands.

6.  James was an amazing host.  He answered so many of my questions.  In every class there were respectful interactions.  The students at NCHS are terrific. WE HAVE GREAT PEOPLE AT OUR SCHOOL.

7.  By “walking a mile in someone else’s shoes” I feel more in tune with my students’ needs. Every teacher should shadow a student for a day!  WE NEED MORE COMPASSION.

A special thanks to Mr. [Rob] Porter (NCHS Math) for the inspiration and partnership to “Shadow a Student.”

Sladkay (right) got the idea to shadow a sudent from colleague Rob Porter

Kim’s account

It had been a little while since I’d seen my freshman soccer coach Mr. Sladkey, so I was excited at the prospect of having him shadow me for a full day. I was flattered that he chose me for this, but I was a little nervous. I’d never even shadowed a teacher myself before! 

However, as soon as we met up at the beginning of the day and jumped right into first period, my nerves quickly died down and I knew that we were both in for a fun day.    

Mr. Sladkey fit in right away in all my classes, and he did the exact same stuff that everyone else was doing, whether it was taking notes, participating in discussions or even helping out with dissecting a rabbit in Anatomy! 

I had to warn him about the strict no-phone policy in Calculus, and he got called out by Mr. Kolbe in PE for not wearing the right PE shirt. Mr. Sladkey also came to Dunkin Donuts with my friends and I for lunch, and contrary to what many might predict, it wasn’t weird or awkward at all having him with us. He became one of us that day, and nobody seemed to even realize that we were eating lunch with one of our teachers.

One of the day’s highlights was PE class. Mr. Sladkey joined our volleyball team... and improved it! He absolutely killed it on the court. He was by far the most consistent player on our team and was eager to spike the ball on the other team as often as he could. It was surreal becoming teammates with my former coach.

Throughout the day, people were curious and a little confused as to why Mr. Sladkey was in class with us, and I explained that he was shadowing me in order to understand what we as students go through on a daily basis. He definitely embraced the opportunity to become one of us again, and he had all sorts of great questions about the day-to-day operations and routines. There have been many times when things get boring during the day, where everything seems to move slower, but answering Mr. Sladkey’s enthusiastic questions helped me realize how interesting the school day can actually be when put in perspective.

I really enjoyed the entire experience, and I have a lot of respect for Mr. Sladkey for being willing to go the extra mile to empathize with high school students in order to improve himself as a teacher.