A student and her shadow pair up to foster understanding


Tuesday Benander

AMSA senior Tuesday Benander and English teacher Paige McKinley were partners for the school’s inaugural “Shadow Day.”

Friction and conflict are everywhere these days, including in schools as students, teachers, and administrators often struggle to understand and empathize with one another. These groups wrestle with limited funds, limited resources, and limited time while trying to get and give the best education possible.

In an effort to build bridges among these groups, AMSA unveiled “Shadow Day” in February, when select teachers, guidance counselors, and administrators spent a typical school day following student partners from the first bell to the end of the day.

For the first time, teachers got to experience the view from the other side of the desk, the hustle and bustle of a rigorous eight-period schedule, and what it’s like to run around between buildings. 

In my case, I was paired with English teacher Paige McKinley. Though only in her second year at AMSA, she has already made a lasting impression on many students. I was ecstatic to partner with Ms. McKinley, whom I interviewed and profiled for The AMSA Voice last year when she was my English teacher.

As a senior, I only have her for study hall, but we still banter about everything from Premier League soccer teams to whodunit movies. It was in that playful spirit that I met Ms. McKinley at the stroke of 7:30 a.m. in the upper school drop-off area. She was ready to go — truly ready, wielding a backpack and dressed in the equivalent of an AMSA student uniform.

Off we went.

First Period, French, Madame Zhobro 

As a fourth-year French student, one particular block I look forward to is the one I get to spend in Madame Zhobro’s class. I absolutely adore her and she is one of the people I will miss the most when I graduate, so it was an ideal place to start.

I suspected that Ms. McKinley would do well on that day’s vocab quiz because of her attention to detail, and she came through with flying colors. Despite enjoying the stress-free energy of the class, Ms. McKinley reflected in her notes that, for her, “having a quiz first period is a tough way to start the day.” 

Second Period, Yearbook, Ms. Makynen

Since I’m all caught up with my yearbook assignments, it gave us a chance to take a deep breath before tackling the rest of the school day. Friends Alexis Libby, Sierra Green, and Emma Webster enjoyed having Ms. McKinley in attendance since they’ve all experienced her first-hand as a teacher.

Then Ms. McKinley showed us her high school yearbook photo and she bore an uncanny resemblance to her favorite recording artist, Taylor Swift, which is apparently what she was going for. Ms. McKinley noted that yearbook was a “nice break to socialize before back-to-back academic classes.” 

Third Period, Gothic Fiction, Ms. Rousseau

Ms. McKinley was quite familiar with what we were studying, Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, so she was ready for the class discussion about the play. We broke into small groups and talked about a couple of guiding questions. It was awesome to see Ms. McKinley in her element. I always admire her enthusiasm for literature.

When we got to the broader class discussion, Ms. McKinley raised her hand and shared her thoughts. What I didn’t realize was that she was about to write down possibly her most important insight of the day: “I got nervous before speaking! Why? I do this every day. Although when I lecture I know the material, I forgot how daunting it is to put your ideas out there.” I am sure that many AMSA students can relate to this, and I found it wonderful that she was able to note it.

Fourth Period, AP Psychology, Dr. Doyle

Psych is awesome. Dr. Doyle makes it super fun and I’m fascinated by the material. On this day we learned about anxiety, OCD, and schizophrenia. It’s hard to explain how we do things in class without having experienced it, but I’ll try to set the scene: Dr. Doyle is playing a video about anxiety while Tori Roberts is inhaling some weird lemon packet he provided that makes her gag. It’s great. Senses popping on all levels and really locking in the material.

Ms. McKinley got to experience this first-hand and I’m confident that she enjoyed the experience. We also made a checklist and talked about common fears that members of the Class of 2023 share. I could tell that Ms. McKinley was fascinated by this because while she was afraid of dead bodies, our biggest collective fear as students was looking foolish, reinforcing her opinion that we’re all managing a lot of anxiety.

Fifth Period, Study Hall, Ms. McKinley

Since Ms. McKinley is my study hall teacher, we just stayed there so that I could get some work done. It was actually nice to have a shadow buddy there, and we talked about the strangest things — pretty on brand for us. She did notice how treacherous it is to wait for third lunch and she was finally starting to get tired. 


In order for Ms. McKinley to have the true AMSA experience, I made sure that we ate lunch in the cafeteria. When we walked in, several heads turned to gawk at us. I guess it’s weird to see a teacher and some random kid eating lunch together. 

Tuesday Benander and English teacher Paige McKinley on a nature walk with Faith McNulty and Salma Menkari.

Sixth Period, Discovering Wild New England, Ms. Thibault

Ms. Thibault wasn’t in class, which was unlucky because she brings such an incredible amount of enthusiasm into any room she walks into. I have wonderful memories of her from the AMSA trip to Iceland that I’ll treasure forever. Nevertheless, we were still able to go on our scheduled nature walk, and we headed to the woods behind AMSA to explore.

In this class I typically hang out with friends Faith McNulty and Salma Menkari, and we always have so much fun, but this time we had a fun shadow buddy to add to the party. Everything was going well until we made it to a small stream. It had a couple perfectly placed rocks that provided obvious stepping stones for crossing. I took my first step, overestimated how much I could stretch my leg, and I slipped.

I flailed my arms and tried to grab onto a nearby tree, but as I was unable to get a good grip on it, I decided to accept my fate. So yeah, I fell in. A stream. In February. Before I fell in completely and was carried away, Ms. McKinley pulled me out. I came out relatively unscathed, which is more than I can say for my sneakers and the lower legs of my pants, which bore the mud of shame for the rest of the school day.

Seventh Period, Accounting, Ms. Ruggiano

When we were walking up the stairs to this class was when Ms. McKinley’s “advanced age” really started to show. “Tuesday! My knees!” she said. “Just leave me here to die.” It wouldn’t have been sporting to abandon my wetlands savior, but it was a riot to see her realize how tiring it can be to walk up several flights of stairs a couple times per day.

Arriving to class, we gratefully took our seats. I see myself as a humanities gal so any form of math usually makes my head hurt. Accounting is definitely helpful, though, so I do appreciate learning the material. At that point, Ms. McKinley and I were absolutely exhausted so I’ll admit that it was hard to focus.

Eighth Period, Digital Media, Mr. Snow

Ms. McKinley made it to the last period of the day, and I told her that she was a really good sport and handled everything flawlessly. We were both really tired, and she mentioned that considering how exhausted she was, students who have extra curricular activities and homework to complete must be incredibly tired by the end of the day. She wanted to really think about how she can help with that. 

We returned to room 800 after the dismissal bell. Ms. McKinley shares the space with Ms. Rousseau, and she told her about all of the exciting things that had happened. When I told her that I fell in a stream she almost spit out the water she was drinking. It was all worth it, though, because I was able to spend the day with my favorite teacher.

In the days leading to Shadow Day, Ms. McKinley teased me that she was going to really bother me, which was her way of saying that we were going to have a fantastic time together. I’ll never forget when I was about to leave and she said to me, “Hey, Tuesday, thanks for letting me bother you all day.” And I replied, “Thanks for bothering me all day.” Then we smiled at each other and parted ways.

I consider Shadow Day a complete success. There’s no doubt in my mind that all of the students who interacted with Ms. McKinley really appreciated her effort and commitment to see how students experience a typical AMSA school day.

In addition, Ms. McKinley was able to make note of several instances which will only make her a better teacher. If the school chooses to continue the experience, I’m confident that it will build new bonds between teachers and students, which can only help the AMSA community in the long run.