Profile headshot of Dr. Michael J. Martirano

Seeing Our Work Through Student Eyes

Dr. Michael J. Martirano, HCPSS Interim Superintendent

Spending a day as a student at Hammond High School helped Dr. Martirano better understand the academic experience from a student's perspective.

On Wednesday, January 31, 2018, Dr. Martirano visited Hammond High School to spend the day as a student.

It has been quite a while since I viewed the classroom from this viewpoint. Today, I’m a student at Hammond High School - a national School of Opportunity!

“To teach a student well, you must know a student well.” was my message to every employee in the Howard County Public School System at our annual kickoff events earlier this year. Today, I’m attempting to better understand the student experience by walking a day in their shoes.

Dr. Martirano sitting with students.

My career began in the classroom. As I have advanced professionally, my job moved me away from the classroom and the students and staff members who are affected by the decisions I make. However, I have always made it a priority to remain connected to the classroom and the people I serve.

I never want to lose sight of what it means to be a student: the academic pressures and developmental issues they contend with daily.

Mandi Bhatt, a senior at Hammond High School, reached out to me this fall to ask that I join her for the school day. I shadowed Mandi through her entire academic day, including lunch in the cafeteria, the most difficult mathematics course I have ever witnessed, and a highly-enjoyable dance class. As high as my expectations were for the day, my experience at Hammond was far more fulfilling than I had anticipated that it would be.

Dr. Martirano in a dance class on stage with students.

Though I left Hammond that day with more stories to share than anybody would care to sit through, I came away with two valuable takeaways that were solidified by my experience.

The first: being a student today is difficult. Though many of the challenges they face are similar to those I faced as a student, many are quite different. I saw them today: college-level courses, internships, class ranks, competitive college admissions, social branding and a host of other potential impactors of social-emotional wellbeing.

As a student, I experienced the importance of establishing connections with peers and adults in the building.

I recognize that many students at Hammond - and every Howard County school - are thriving academically and social-emotionally.

At the same time, I passed any number of students in the hallway who are struggling. Perhaps they haven’t made these important connections. Perhaps they have challenges outside of school that they carry with them each day. Either way, we must continue to make genuine connections with every student and have supports in place to serve every student’s needs.

Dr. Martirano having lunch with two students.

As educators, the connections we make, or don’t make, with students significantly influences academic achievement and personal wellbeing. Great teachers see their work as more than a job; it is a passion. The best teachers deliver the content effectively but understand that the real goal is for students to lead happy and successful lives and positively influence the larger community.

I met many highly effective educators at Hammond and appreciate their efforts.

I am grateful for the opportunity afforded me by Mandi and Hammond High School. I wish that everybody could have this experience.

My other takeaway? Hammond High School is a great place to learn!

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