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Teacher-student swap at Fairfax school

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The eighth-graders who were tasked with being teachers for the day came to a consensus: there’s more to teaching than meets the eye. 

“It’s harder to teach, now that I think of it, than it is to learn,” said one student at St. Leo the Great School in Fairfax Feb.1. “Learning, you receive all the information, but teaching you have to figure out how to say the information.”

For the past few years during Catholic Schools Week, St. Leo has had a Turn Around Day — eighth-graders become teachers, and teachers raid the used uniform closet for sweater vests and plaid.

After preparing for a day spent at the front of the classroom, the students had mixed feelings about teaching as a career.

“It’s fun. I can see why some people would like doing this as their profession,” said Aidan Merino.

“You can also see why some people would not like doing this,” chimed in another eighth grader.

Earlier in the month, eighth-graders submitted their preferences for which teacher they wanted to be. Once assigned a teacher, they spent recess time together planning lessons. Eighth-grade homeroom teachers prepped the students on professional dress, said Sara Hicks, assistant principal.

“I tried on like 20 dresses,” eighth-grader Michelle Nguyen said of her Turn Around Day attire, as she and other students chatted and snacked in the “teacher’s lounge,” an eighth-grade homeroom classroom that was transformed for the day. 

Principal David DiPippa started the initiative in the hopes of giving students a greater appreciation for the work their teachers do. Every year, the students have impressed him with their work.  

“We started this to provide the students the experience of what it would be like as a teacher in Catholic schools,” he said. “I think the eighth-graders look forward to this each and every year. To me, it's really nice to see our eighth-graders mature and take this activity seriously. And hopefully someday they may think about education as a career.”

In the past, DiPippa has overhead the eighth-graders talk about how hard it is to stand all day, or how difficult it is to have their students stay focused. “One student asked me once whether they could write a detention for their peer,” he said. “I said no.”

Overall, he believes the day is a positive experience for teachers and students. “I think there is a deeper respect for what the teachers do. (The students) tend to show that a little bit more the second half of the year,” he said. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018