2014-15: A Day in the Life

Observations on extraordinary students - a blog by Dr. Dana Boshnack

I have often wondered what our halls and classes look like to you—to the students who populate our high school.

As adults we have administrative and instructional priorities—do they match or complement your priorities? What is your perspective on the educational changes we implement? What do you think of the classes and the teaching methods used? How are you handling the workload? Do you feel prepared for what is coming next in your life? How are you building relationships, having fun and learning what it is to be a young adult? Are we helping? How can we help more?

Following a student gives me an opportunity to see first-hand what it's like to be a Brockport High School student. To experience a day in your life. Every week I’ll be choosing one of you at random to follow for a day. (I take a pen and drop it on an alphabet printed on a scrap of paper. Next, I take the letter it falls on and put it into Infinite Campus and scroll without looking. Voila…a name appears!)

I hope to learn something new from each and every one of you who share your days with me. I thank you all in advance—and ask you to not wait for a formal invitation to give me your ideas and your thoughts. My office is open to anyone who is committed to making this school a better place to learn.


First period: Spanish 5

Jess1 Que es un migrante? Los tres grupos significntes:

The notes are on the board and the class discusses the topics. I'm impressed with how well our students speak Spanish!


During advisement we watch BNN, a student-created news network. The program runs every Monday morning, and all advisement classes play it so students can catch up on the news and events going on in school. Sometimes there are creative skits, similar to those on late night comedy shows.

Jessica is working on homework for her last period class - AP Environmental Science.

Second period: Ceramics

YES!! This is one of the courses I taught as a high school teacher, so I was very excited to join Jessica in Ceramics class. Students here had three options for creating project. They were very focused and working furiously to meet their deadline. I enjoyed using the potter's wheel and created a few bowls.

Jess2 Third period: Economics/Honors

During Economics we spent time reading articles and discussing issues of personal finance, grocery shopping, paying for college and other relevant topics.


I had the opportunity to eat with Jessica and four of her friends, all seniors. We discussed their experiences in high school and which classes they have found most valuable: AP Environmental, Ceramics, Math and Public Speaking topped their list.

After lunch, a student stood in front of the class to share his views and ideas about racism. He wants to start a campaign. He would like to videotape students with their faces painted, sharing things they all have in common. The class is enthusiastic and starts to develop plans for implementing the campaign.

Jess5Fourth period: AP Environmental

Class started with a quiz. Students were asked to respond to the following statement: What human activities are/might be responsible for species extinctions. (HINT: Hippo)

The remainder of the class was spent discussing invasive species. Students chose a species and worked on creating an "Exotic Species" poster. They used their computers to create the poster, adding facts about their chosen species.


First period: Civil Engineering/Project Lead the Way


Students in PLTW work independently on projects like designing a floor plan. In this project, students worked on an "affordable housing design." Students shared roles as one acted as the client and the other created the design to meet their requirements within the established guidelines.


Second period: AP Psych

N2 During Psych class we discussed sensation and Perception. Our class was divided in half and asked to briefly look at this image.

"The Forest Has Eyes" by Bev Doolittle

N3 One half of the room was just asked to look and the other half was given the name of the illustration. As a result, more than twice as many students in Group 2 saw the faces in the image. (Bottom up vs Top down processing)

We also discussed subliminal messages in advertising. The teacher shared many different samples from past and present companies.

Third period: AP History

FullSizeRender Students worked in small groups to develop westward expansion games for the rest of the class.


First period: English 3

SEnglish1Students were working in groups; discussing an image and identifying the symbolism. I was quickly welcomed. They identified and discussed irony within their composition. During the large group work, the teacher facilitated a rich discussion around an image and symbolism in "The Crucible."

Following the large group discussion, students from each of the groups stand up to present their image.


During advisement, Samantha and I discussed her classes and thoughts about school She also told me about the day and her class in the afternoon. The students in her advisement get along well. She said that they often have discussions as a group when they are not doing work or studying for classes.

Second period: PE

PE is really awesome at BHS because students are able to choose their units. So the activity Samantha chose for this unit was TABLE TENNIS…my favorite! During class, we learned about the rules for single and doubles. We also practiced our shots and played in a variety of ways including a relay, where we had to run around the table and hit the ball for the next person in line. During PE, Mrs. Johnson called me over to join her group for Cooperative Games. I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into…

The students stood waiting, as I reluctantly fell backwards. There was A LOT of trust going on in this PE class!



Trust Fall!

SPE4 Table tennis Champs!

Lunch: PIZZA!

Afternoon: WEMOCO Cosmetology

SWEM5Going to WEMOCO was a highlight of my day. I really enjoyed seeing the facility and working alongside all of the students. Samantha is in class with girls from many schools, like Greece, Spencerport and Hilton. I was able to learn how to properly roll hair, making sure the parts were straight and the curlers were aligned properly. This was much more difficult than I expected. The teacher gave me a score for my work…68/100. YIKES!

Not as high as I'd hoped for, but I realize that this takes a lot of practice to master. These girls are hard workers and truly professional! I appreciated how welcoming everyone was at WEMOCO.






As I take time to reflect on my experiences these past weeks, I am reminded of how powerful our interactions are on the lives of our students. I also know how difficult it can be to not only engage students but to stretch and empower our students as active thinkers and learners as well.

The attached is a relevant article from Educational Leadership (EL), written by Carol Tomlinson. It is a two minute read…and worth the time. Tomlinson 2014 Magazine Article


First period: Economics

This course is a graduation requirement and these kids are all seniors. The general tone of the class is laid back as students are encouraged to ask questions and discuss their ideas. They engage in conversation with the teacher on Elastic and Inelastic examples with principles of supply and demand. We viewed a quick five-minute video reinforcing the concepts of supply and demand, specifically causes and demand shifters.

Lastly, the class took turns reading an excerpt from a book which shares the author's experiences as he tries to avoid plastic products, and the impact of using hygiene products with harmful chemicals.


As I walk into advisement, there is no talking; the advisement is completely silent because a few students are taking a math quiz. Once the students finish taking their test, the teacher thanks the advisement for their patience and she puts on BNN. The classroom is quiet and everyone is paying attention.


Second period: ELA

The Red Cross Blood Drive is going on today. Nate gave blood; it took a little longer than expected, so he missed most of his English class. (The class was discussing "Tuesdays with Morrie.")


First period: PE

This was the last day of the badminton unit. Students have choices for each unit and Taylor selected badminton. (I was glad to hear that I was not going to have to do inline skating :-).)

PE During class, students practiced. The PE teacher asked, "How many of you have noticed a significant improvement with your playing?" Everyone raised their hand. She commended them on their hard work and great skills. The teacher explained how teams would now play against other teams and move clockwise if they won the game. I was glad that Ashley selected me to be her partner. We ended up winning the championship!

Second period: African Drumming

Six students begin class by talking to each other about how to begin playing, who would hit the bell to identify the next player and how they would "layer" in. They assigned roles. They used music vocabulary as they spoke. I joined in the group and followed the lead of another student by playing the drum during her parts. The students were proud to share their drumming circle with the teacher who recorded as the students (including myself) played our parts.

We then listened to a piece of music (Hip Hip Chin Chin). The students took notes and then discussed the unique qualities of the song. They confidently shared their thoughts about the piece.

The class ended by rehearsing and performing a final drumming session. I didn’t realize I could keep a beat! My hands were very red and sore by the end of class…but well worth the experience.


Third period: ELA 2

I was late again. I'm finding that it is difficult to get to class on time because I usually stop to visit the classroom teacher or other people along the way. I also was late because I went to the classroom and found a note on the door, directing the class to the library. So, when I went to the library, I found that the students were in the small computer lab in the back room.

The nine students were working on thesis statements for their "Lord of the Flies" essay. There were three adults assisting them: the librarian, the classroom teacher and the AIS teacher. Students frequently asked for help and there was an adult by their side assisting right away. This class is assigned middle lunch, so students worked on the computers until lunch and then came back after lunch to finish up. They all had a very positive, friendly tone and their class went by so quickly.


We ordered pizza for lunch and Taylor invited three of her friends to join us. We talked a lot about our HS and they had many great ideas.

The students want to do more events to build school spirit; they used the term more "unity." They suggested doing a monthly Spirit Day where everyone wears blue…or "fun Friday" like the elementary schools. They talked about how having something to look forward to can help motivate and focus everyone more.

They also told me:

  • They need to be engaged more in class - like maybe acting out or playing roles in history class.

  • Teachers need to be more overt about how a topic or their learning relates to real life or why they need to know it.

  • They do not think there is enough food for all of the high school students, especially those who are in sports or very active. They told me that the vending machine lines during passing time are so long that many students do not get the opportunity to buy something. They are upset about limited options in the lunch room, especially losing the bagels. They understand that this is due to state mandates but think it is very unfair to students.

  • Students really like PE classes. They enjoy that there are so many options that are fun and they learn a lot.



Sitting alongside Alyssa in these classes is much different from doing an observation, because I've had a greater chance to interact with students.

First period: ELA 3

LibraryThe ELA 3 students are working on STARR essays in the library. The teacher quietly walks around to assist each student and checks for progress and understanding. This is a CT class, so there is also a Special Education teacher assisting students.

Adjacent to this class is an ELA 4 class. They are working on senior projects; researching books for what inspires them. The librarian has been working with them to find books relevant to their topic. She has gone from student to student, posing questions and asking for input. Students seem very receptive to her guidance.

It is clear that the majority of students in the library, from both classes, are working hard - typing, reading and discussing. When they leave, the librarian tells students, "You guys did a good job."


There are 11 students - Juniors and Sophomores - in advisement with two teachers.

LibraryTeacher directs attention to announcements up on the smart board. There is discussion on the winter ball, on club meetings, on Mathletes.

One student asks for help on a math question. The teacher shows her two different ways to do it and she can decide which way to complete the problem. The other teacher is helping a student with homework. She explains that there is an error and how to re-do the work. The student understands and makes the adjustment. The other teacher is now working 1:1 with a student.

Second period: Studio in Art Class


This will be a good opportunity to get involved! We'll be doing one-minute gesture drawings. Students drew many and selected two of their best drawings for their portfolio. Students Art1volunteered to pose. The final drawing takes about 35 minutes.The instructor provides direction as students begin drawing their models.

After the final drawing, students walked around to do a quick critique of everyone's drawing. Teacher says "good job" to a student. She says no…it wasn’t good. Teacher asked what she wants to improve on. They discuss a plan for next time.


My final drawing!


Lunchtime: Pizza and wings with Alyssa and two friends :-)

The lunch period is when I get to really find out about what you are all thinking. Our conversations have been fluid, and you’ve talked about all aspects of our school. I’ve asked what you enjoy and what you would do to make the school better. You have shared thoughts and ideas; about how you learn best or about how we can build a stronger sense of unity in our building.

Third period: Pre-Calculus

Students used the CBR 2 and Easy Data APP to record a bouncing ball; captured and zoomed into a parabola; saved the data so they could use it for their equations.


The teacher shares the students' equations on the smart board. The class discusses the work and make suggestions. Teacher asks students a series of questions. "Maybe Physics students will PreCalc2have the answer?" Students respond. Class discusses acceleration due to gravity; they look at the formula and discuss how it is related. Following class discussion, teacher assigns activity using the TI INSPIRE.

Fourth period: Health

Students view a video on social drugs. As students view the video, they are taking notes and filling in the blanks, answering questions that go along with the video.

Health1 Health2

Afterwards the teacher has a class discussion and shares several newscasts about drugs. Teacher also reviewed three learning objectives with class. Lastly, students presented on the drug GHB.

 Real Listening as Real Teaching by Carol Ann Tomlinson (PDF -141 KB)

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