Superintendent Dan Behm shadows FHC student Sarah Kranenborg for a day


Superintendent Dan Behm forgot what it was like. He forgot it was six straight hours of sitting. He forgot it was math, then science, and then history. He forgot how draining high school days can feel.

He remembers now.

Behm, along with some other administrators, took a trip back in time and re-lived a day in the life of a typical high school student. Behm’s blast from the past took him to FHC, following freshman Sarah Kranenborg to all six of her classes, lunch, and even to her locker.

To make this shadowing experience possible, Sarah volunteered.

“[Mr.Passinault came into my sixth hour] and asked if anyone would like to be followed by a teacher, so I signed up, and instead I got the superintendent,” Sarah said. “He did all [my] classes with me, [and] he did the same exact work that I did, so he was basically a student for the day.”

For any other student walking through the halls, it may have been shocking to see Superintendent Behm following a student. Some people may have been wondering, “Why is he here and what is he doing following one of our peers?”

To answer those questions, the purpose of having the administrators shadow a student is, in Behm’s words, to “understand what the world of our students is like and to really gain a sense of empathy for what it means to be a high school student in high school.”

Schools, and the way students are educated, have changed and evolved over the years.

“Today, as educators, we all have our own personal memories,” Behm said. “What I’m finding is that some of my experiences I recognized today, but there are also experiences that students have today that are new for me”

Many of Behm’s experiences from the day have shown him how helpful students can be towards each other. He was also reminded about the physical and mental strain sitting down for long periods of time can have on a student.

“The connection between your ability to focus mentally and what you’re feeling physically,” Behm said. “I’m reminded of that, so when you’re in more controlled environment, like a school or classroom, your physical environment can easily distract your mental focus.”

Following a student for a day has reminded Behm of the drastic changes and “mental gymnastics” that the brain goes through from class to class and subject to subject.

“Your brain moves through talking about exponents and common rations, to how DNA is transcribed into RNA, and then singing a song in choir,” Behm said. “Sometimes they flow and connect, and sometimes they don’t. And you have to access different parts of your brain [to comprehend it all.]”

Throughout the day, Behm got to experience Clone Day, the third day of the Winterfest Spirit Week. He participated like every other student, wearing blue jeans and a white shirt. The day overall was extremely fun and stimulating for both him and Sarah.

“Its fun to be in a spot where teenagers are, there’s a lot of energy, and that’s contagious,” Behm said. “And it’s also fun just to see the diversity of the learning that takes place all over. Also, being an observer and immersing oneself in that world is very helpful and cool.”

Behm has learned from the day is to help better the school system’s overall design.

“If you’re going to design something well, you need to have empathy for whoever is using that thing that you are designing,” Behm said.

Behm hopes to help make the school environment a better and less stressful environment. Using everything that he has learned, Behm can now help create a better design for more effective end results.

“I am really passionate about redesigning the high school experience,” Behm said. “So, it’s helpful to have empathy for the people who are going through that experience.”