Q&A: Charlotte Private School Administrator Spends Day as Third Grader
Third grade is a pivotal year for kids, so Bill Mulcahy, Head of Charlotte Country Day Lower School, spent his day as a third grader to see what students are really experiencing.
Have you ever wondered what your child's day was like at school? Not just the basics, but all the details, too. Bill Mulcahy did. The father of two and head of Charlotte Country Day's Lower School was once a third-grade teacher. He says, "I think third grade is a big year because there's a palpable jump in students starting to be more independent."
To see what the students (and his own children) were really experiencing at school, Mulcahy spent an entire day—from the morning bus to the afternoon bell—as a third grader at Charlotte Country Day School. We got to talk to him about his experience.
Charlotte Parent: Walk us through your day. You took the bus to school with the kids? How was that?
Bill Mulcahy: Yes! Our driver was a seasoned bus driver and a plant operations member; her name is Amelia Berry. Amelia knew the names of the kids and took such pride in what she does. It was fun to see the surprised, confused looks of the Lower Schoolers as they walked onto the bus and saw me. It was great; we got a lot of laughs. The whole time, I just kept thinking, what a nice way to start the day. The kids were happy and ready to go. It was a kind of familial feel.
CP: What kinds of classes did you take?
BM: We did a math assessment, a bit of writing. Math looks different now—I nervously double- and triple-checked my work, which was a big change from my previous third-grade self. Our math curriculum lends itself to hands-on tactile learning, and I couldn't help but think how fortunate students are today to learn math in such an engaging, interactive way. It's a far cry from my math classes in the '80s and '90s.
CP: What was your favorite part of the day?
BM: The whole day was wonderful. There was so much—that's one great thing we do at Country Day—we were all over campus. Our kids are not siloed in one space. We were donating cans. There was a butterfly release. Overall though, I loved P.E., as exhausting it was. I loved seeing the kids running and being a part of it—seeing their joy and laughing about me being out there with them. It was really sweet.
CP: What inspired you to go through a day as a third grader?
BM: I was most inspired by the sense of being new in this community and trying to best understand the student experience. I'm a parent of two kids here as well, so you see what goes into a day at school and how tired and busy our kids are. I also wanted to see what a full day looks like for our teachers and how invested and connected they are.
CP: Did anything surprise you about your experience?
BM: As a parent and as an administrator and as a former teacher, you truly cannot appreciate how full their days are and how much we ask of them. I wasn't surprised by this per se, but it was something I noticed. It was also great to see the social and emotional growth happening. For example, at P.E., I was running with a third grader. I was tired and this sweet girl was cheering me on. It was nice to see the kindness and thoughtfulness and just how supportive our kids are with one another. It's always a nice reminder and affirmation of Country Day that kids are so thoughtful and kind.
CP: What’s your best tip for parents preparing kids to enter Country Day's Lower School?
BM: With little ones, fostering early literacy, reading to your students, and having conversations about books are the most important. Another thing is discussing balance—having your child understand the balance of structured activities and unstructured play—I can't stress that enough.