Throughout the past few years, I’ve found that Walking in the Shoes of our students and staff gives me unique perspectives about our schools.

For Walking in the Shoes, I typically spend the day shadowing a student or staff member.

Last school year, I walked in the shoes of a few students with special circumstances. This included a student in our Life Skills program, a kindergartner who is homeless, and a student who is transitioning as part of our LGBTQA community.

Watch this video to see my experiences Walking in the Shoes of students in 2015-16 school year

Whose shoes do you think I should walk in this year? I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.

If you want to see a comprehensive list of my past Walking in the Shoes experiences, please click here.

42 Comments

  1. Perhaps try walking in the shoes of an athletic coach who teaches full-time and then coaches for several hours after school?
    The NWC Championship Cross Country Meet is on Oct. 20 @ Civic. That would be a great day to shadow a Cross Country coach, but walking in the shoes of any teacher who also coaches would be great.

    • Thanks, Eric. What a great idea! I would love to spend time with you and/or any of our staff whose days extend well beyond “bell-to-bell.” Our coaches provide such incredible support, mentoring and love for our students. I’ll connect with you off-line about Oct. 20. : ) Thanks again for the idea.

  2. School Specialists – music, PE (fitness/health), psychologist, nurse, counselor, OTPT, world language, choir, tech, art. (Any teacher who travels from school to school)

    • Thanks for the great suggestion. We have so many wonderful staff who split their time between many different buildings, schools and many different students with a diverse range of needs. Our teachers and staff certainly don’t all fit the mold of staying in one classroom all day long. Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

  3. I love this blog and the fact that you have immersed yourself in the daily world of so many people within our district to learn about their perspectives.
    I think a day with a librarian might be interesting for you! 😉

    • Thank you, Denisa. I agree that spending time with a Library Media Specialist would be of great value. Thanks for the idea and your encouraging comment!

  4. Having taught in the Bellingham Public Schools for more than half of my 33 years in public education, I am so impressed with this Walking in my Shoes Blog. Thank you, Dr. Baker, for bringing this innovative look inside our schools to the public.

    • Thank you, Margie! It’s been so valuable, not only for me, but for many others, including students, staff and families. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  5. Could you try walking in the shoes of a middle school or high school student that may “look ok” on the outside but has major issues affecting them on the inside. Example, they get good grades, have friends, quality home life; but they are struggling emotionally on the inside. They may have deeper issues than what people see, they may use harmful ways to cope such as an eating disorder, or they may “cut to cope”, they may have PTSD, anxiety and/or depression. It seems like we tend to pay attention to those that have apparent/obvious situations or issues (homeless, behavior issues, teen pregnancy, drug/alcohol abuse, LGBTQ, etc) but we tend to forget those that have deep rooted issues because everything seems fine from the outside. Let’s not forget the ones that struggle even if doesn’t seem like they are. Thanks.

    • Hi, Shelly. Thanks for the comment and idea. You’re right. Many of our students face challenges that are not necessarily visibly seen by others, yet our support and awareness are critical in getting them the help and resources they need. Thanks again for the suggestion.

  6. Suggestion for walking in the shoes of students who get pulled out of class for extra help. The help is great, but they miss out on class work time and instruction. Perhaps a scheduled class for this extra help? It is done at other schools.

    • Hi, Lisa. Thanks for the great suggestion. There are many great reasons students get pulled out of class, but you bring up a great point: they may be missing key instructional and/or peer time. Ideally, our staff is all working together to minimize the impact. As my past experiences with walking in the shoes have proven, I know I could learn more! Thanks again.

  7. I think that it would be great to see you walk in the shoes of a staff member who are overshadowed and their importance sometimes under appreciated like a custodian or a bus driver or matinence person. They are a very important part of what makes our school work????

    • Hi, Angela. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I agree that our custodians, bus drivers and building and grounds staff all play a key role in helping make our schools work. In fact, you can read my blogs about walking in the shoes of a bus driver and custodian during the 2014-15 school year! I loved my experiences. I’ll add our maintenance staff to our list of ideas for this year. Thanks again!

  8. Thank you for taking the time to do this work – it’s a great concept. One idea: walking in the shoes of a foster kid in the Bellingham school system. There are 100s of these kids, possibly more, and very few people outside of school staff (and foster parents, like myself) are truly aware of it. It may be hard to profile a current foster kid, due to privacy laws, so perhaps a recently-adopted foster kid? These kids often look like other kids, and are expected to perform at the same level intellectually, socially and emotionally, but have endured more than most of us can imagine: abuse, neglect, profound loss, constant moves and changing of schools, etc.

    • Thanks, Hilary. Many people don’t realize how many foster kids we have in our district or the challenges they face. Great idea – thanks again.

  9. How about you walk with a few different Family Partnership program members? A teacher, a student at each level, maybe a parent? One of my girls and I use this program and it is going very well.

    You could also walk with an HCL student, show how instruction is differentiated. My other child is in that program at Roosevelt and it is great.

    • Hi, Kathleen. Great idea! The Family Partnership Program has been up and running since spring of 2015 and still many people don’t know about it. I will add it to the ever-growing list of wonderful ideas. I like the idea of incorporating differentiated instruction, too. Thanks again.

  10. I have been so moved by this blog and by your commitment and compassion for students, Dr. Baker. Thank you. I like the idea of walking in the shoes of a teacher (librarian, coach or special ed teacher?), but I would hate to see you lose focus that you had last year, on kids. In that sense, I’d love to see you spend a day with an ESL (immigrant) kid or an ASL (deaf) kid; the foster child suggestion is awesome, if you could find a volunteer and work within privacy laws. It’s also worth considering that adolescence is a time when mental illness may strike: depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia all are often diagnosed in adolescence or early adulthood. Kids with mental illnesses, like adults (!) are stigmatized. It would be cool if other kids understood that a mental illness is like any other chronic illness: it requires care, sometimes medication, and learning to cope. Mental illness does not make people violent or dangerous. Stability, compassion, and understanding are very important. Another idea is a kid with a physical disability — maybe using a walker or wheelchair, or maybe just having to cope with epilepsy or autism. Another very current topic is immigration (might go along with English as a Second Language) — if we have any refugee kids, that might be a very good child to shadow. Thanks again for this terrific service to our school communities!

    • All great ideas, Virginia. I’m so glad you are enjoying this blog, too. And yes, we have many ELL (English language learners) families, as well as refugee students and families in our community. Mental illness has come up a few times already, and I see great value in focusing on student challenges, along with staff support in that area.
      And thank you for addressing the struggle about whether to focus on staff or students (hopefully it will be a mix of both!). Both are so crucial to our system. Thanks again.

  11. My child just started in school and I have another that will be starting in the next year or two. It has been a long time since I went to elementary school. Back then, the main focus was teaching kids academic skills, like reading, writing and math. As a parent, I appreciate the public schools providing that academic training. Teaching basic literacy is critical to providing my children with the skills they will need to do well in life.

    Maybe you could walk in the shoes of a regular kid to see how the public schools meet the needs of its mainstream students. If nothing else, it would provide a baseline for evaluating how the schools are doing with all of these other special circumstances.

    • Hi Brian, Thanks for the comment and idea. Academics are a focus at the elementary level, along with a number of other areas of development. Our strategic plan, The Bellingham Promise, guides our district’s work, and emphasizes the whole child. We strive to develop well-rounded students who have knowledge, strong character and are ready to take action in the world. Here is a link if haven’t yet seen The Promise.
      Also, my first year of doing “Walking in the Shoes” focused on every grade level around our district, and I would say those experiences added to my understanding of some, but certainly not all, of our students. As you can see from this blog, there’s no one label or definition (ex. LGBTQ or “mainstream”) that fully defines any one student. I definitely understand your sentiment, but it can be very complicated to group kids with one label versus another. Thanks again for adding your idea into the mix!

  12. Perhaps a student in the Highly Capable program? It would be nice if you could see what the HCL program is doing, or not doing, for them.

  13. Hello, my name is Paige Kremer and my son, Wake Kremer is a sophomore at BHS. He transferred from AK because our small school closed. Luckily he was invited to live with his Aunt and Uncle in Bellingham. As you can imagine he has a unique set of challenges and a lot of new experiences coming him way. I think he would be a great student for you to shadow, he has lived a very interesting life so far and I think you would learn a lot from him.

  14. Perhaps highlighting a college bound student who is being recruited by Colleges for their academic or athletic success and the effort and steps taken to achieve this goal. Applying for College, completing essays, studying for SAT’s, preparing to leave home, etc…all have lessons in them for many students and families. Although some may see these as our “privileged” students, the process does not go without stress and perhaps parents who have never embarked on this journey can be enlightened, as well as students. Walking with a student who plans to go into the Military may also be of interest to many.

    • Hi Jolene, Great ideas. I’m all about reducing stress and gaining enlightenment! It’s amazing how much we can gain from other parents, students and staff who have been through certain processes before. I also like your idea of following a student going into the military. Thanks again!

  15. Dr. Baker,

    I appreciate your willingness to walk a mile in others shoes. This is a thank you note to the folks that took the time to do the same.

    The genuine care and interest that you have shown here is the same interest and care I have witnessed first hand in my dealings with Fairhaven middle school and Sehome high school staff.

    I’m a single Dad with no Mom in my boys lives for visitation or support, a job that takes me away from the home periodically, and difficult teenage challenges.

    The support from the principals, vice principals, teachers, special educators that I have been shown has been nothing short of miraculous. You all are the real heroes in my book, and I’m a very grateful father. Thank you, your efforts do not go unrecognized.

    • Cody, Thanks for your encouragement and praise to the incredible staff and principals we have at our schools. I’m so glad you’ve found great support at Fairhaven and Sehome. We do have real heroes in our schools — and remember, we have real heroes in our parents and guardians, too! Good luck with those teenage challenges (I mean that!) and keep seeking support if/when needed. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment!

  16. I would love to see you walk in the shoes of a high school counselor. I think they wear many hats and because of lack of time, are often not able to fulfill the role most people assume they do – helping kids in crisis.

    • Thanks for the idea, Holly! It’s a good one. Our counselors are amazing and yes, they wear many hats. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  17. I absolutely love this blog and cannot thank you enough for your time and compassion Dr. Baker! Being the parent of a child who just started kindergarten and a nurse that works closely with injured and disabled children, a few suggestions come to mind. How about walking in the shoes of a parent who’s child is about to embark in the public school system for the very first time and find out the challenges, barriers and (many) questions they face in the beginning of the school year? A glimpse into the daily life of a school nurse would also be very insightful! I also agree with the above suggestions of walking in the shoes of a foster child or perhaps a child who suffers from life threatening allergies? How about a child who uses assistive devices to perform their activities of daily life? (i.e.: crutches, walker, wheelchair, scooter, hearing aids, etc) Or lastly, how about shadowing a child who is often targeted or victimized by bullying?

    • Hi Heather, I like your idea about getting more perspective from a family (or student) coming from a different school. We could even expand upon that and think about families from different schools, states or countries! So many great options. And I did walk in the shoes of a school nurse in 2014. It was a wonderful experience. Thanks again!

  18. Thank you for the impact that your efforts have within our community. Walking in the shoes of a Running Start student could facilitate a better understanding of this opportunity and the challenges and experiences that these students uniquely face.

  19. Thank you so much for doing this work! I just wanted to gently remind you (and everyone in the district office) that although many people lump in LGBTQ together, they are actually very different. Trans/gender identity is not the same as being gay or lesbian. I want to truly acknolwedge the work that you’re doing (and I almost didn’t comment because I don’t want to take away from the amazing work that you do!) but I felt like it was necessary to say. They’re just really different groups, and somehow they got lumped together in our society, and it isn’t fair to do so. You are helping to support TRANS students in this video, not necessarily gay or lesbian students. (And your support of trans kids is huge and important!!!) But, I just wanted you to know that. It isn’t really giving you information on the gay/lesbian experience because these two groups don’t have the same issues/challenges. As a cis-gendered lesbian woman, I have to tell you that we are really, really different groups of people who don’t deal with the same issues. It’s unfair to lump everyone together, “walk with” one really specific group, and say that you’re dealing with all of them, when you aren’t. Honestly, that “T” shouldn’t even be on the acronym, because it deserves its own category! Again, thank you for your commitment to our children. I only said something because this language misstep makes you sound somewhat uneducated in queer issues to those of us within the queer community, and uneducated is not a word I would use to describe you at all! You’re truly trying though, which I love and support in a leader!

    • Kay, your gentle reminder is well received and appreciated. Thanks for the suggestion, and thank you for taking the time to add your idea into this wonderful list. I think I’m set for the next five years! : )

  20. Hi:
    Everyone’s child goes through unique experiences as a student and as a human. So, I am sure no matter who you pick we will all learn from it. I am recommending my daughter. She has a ultra rare disorder called Bilateral Nodular Periventricular Heterotopia. Sad that I can now spell that. Lol. There are many forms of brain malformation out there but, this one is unique. It renders her unable to read or write. No I don’t just mean dyslexic, I mean physically unable to read or write. The centers of her brain is for reading and writing are not attached to the rest of the neural network. Like a computer from the sixties it cannot access the rest of the mind’s internet. She is now in high school the government won’t declare her disabled so we must do everything to help her ourselves. Ever wonder what it would be like if you had to go to school but would never read past a low second grade level no matter the help or, what it would be like to face the future not knowing if you could ever hold a job. Want to see someone with a positive outlook and a love of school despite that. She is going to College. That’s my daughter.

    • Hi Rebbecca, thanks for sharing your daughter’s story. She sounds like an amazing person! Regardless of whose “shoes” I’m walking in, I would love to meet her. Well done on raising such a positive and empowered young woman.

  21. Hi Greg! I really appreciate and love this forum and your use of it! The Walking in the Shoes series has been so informative. I would suggest walking in the shoes of a high school student that is either struggling with academics and maybe isn’t doing it in the timeline that is considered “normal” or is working toward graduation and is looking at the options available (online, coming back for another year, etc) to do so.

    • Hi Tammy, I appreciate your suggestion. Your idea is one that is near and dear to me. We have been more intentional over the last year to dedicate more time and effort on our students who didn’t graduate or who aren’t on track to graduate. Their background and stories vary, yet many are filled great adversity. We are continuing this work, and I hope to share some of these stories soon. “Walking in the Shoes” could be a great platform. Thanks again for adding your voice to this discussion!

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