Principal Tom Radivonyk entered Crittenden County Middle School on Monday in a pair of Converse All Stars with a backpack swinging from his shoulder as he hurried to class.
More than 1,500 school leaders worldwide signed up for the Shadow a Student Challenge this year, from Feb. 2-17. The challenge entails participants attending classes for a day, experiencing school from a student's perspective.
Radivonyk became a sixth-grader with enthusiasm, following 12-year-old Seth Guess from class to class. "I have a new empathy for what the students go through," said Radivonyk, CCMS first-year principal. "Only doing visits or teacher assessments doesn't give me a student's perspective, so this was great to see school through their (eyes)."
"Doing the work yourself, you can also see where lesson plans succeed and fail, (and) what frustrates the students -- whether it's when technology fails, or when not enough information is given."
Dubbed "Mr. Rad" by his new peers Monday, one middle-schooler clapped him on the shoulder between bells and asked, "Sup, bro?"
In science class, he lacked for answers on a worksheet about the earth's crust. "Let's look at our books," he told students. "We need to find this stuff out."
Guess said he and his principal bonded Monday through their interest in basketball.
There was a brief disagreement as Radivonyk told the Cleveland Cavaliers fan that the Boston Celtics are better. However, the two found common ground by agreeing social studies is "a cool class."
CCMS's new student for the day also earned the approval of sixth-grader Addison Steward.
"He's doing well so far with his first day back in middle school," said Steward, 12. "His fashion choices have been excellent, and I think we're going to have a lot of fun at lunch."
Meanwhile, 12-year-old Lanie Greenwell felt Radivonyk's presence encouraged camaraderie between faculty and students.
"It's given students the chance to know him better," Greenwell said. "He's been busy as principal, so something like this allows us to see him in a different perspective.
"I like that he's participated with us in class, and we've learned he's not all serious. He can be laid back, and that helps us relax."