Sept. 25th – 29th

How do I know? How do we know?

These questions have been rattling around my head for weeks, especially after our last Administrative Leadership Team (ALT) meeting. These questions were asked to the ALT group as we discussed several items related to student and adult learning, and since then I have found myself struggling to find answers. Last week I wondered if my daughter was “learning” anything as she created a stuffed owl (read here), and how, if I had to, could I measure that learning. So often we feel we need data to validate what we feel. As teachers we have an instinct about our students and about what they have learned, and often we use tests or assignments to support and report. The numbers support our beliefs and we can use them to report to parents. I think that’s why when a student scores poorly on a test or a project and we have anticipated they would do very well, we start asking questions. Rarely do I remember asking myself, “hmm, how did that top student score well on that test?” Nor do I remember wondering why a student who consistently struggled in the past failed a test, after all it was just validating what I had anticipated.

But why should it take a misalignment of our predictions and the results to prompt us to ask why?

At our ALT meeting we were asked to predict the outcomes from our 2016/17 developmental reading assessments (DRA) for grades 1, 2, and 3. After taking some time to reflect I committed myself to my predictions and waited in anticipation as our learning superintendent shuffled through his papers to find our data. When I saw the data and set it beside my predictions I noticed the two sets were not aligned, in fact I was way off! While our results showed our students in grades 1, 2, and 3 were performing slightly below the division mean I was not overly worried about our students and their ability to read at grade level now or in the future. What caused that feeling? A clear understanding of the commitment to student learning that each teacher at Waldheim School has shown over the course of my 14 months of being associated with this school. What did give me pause was the fact that I did not “know” the students better than that. How could my hunch be so off? How is it that I overestimated their results so drastically? For whatever reasons, and I’m sure there are many, I did not know the students as well as I thought I did. This leads back to the question, “how do I know”. Obviously when I made my prediction it was based on shaky ground, I didn’t really know, but rather I was being cautiously optimistic. As you know, my goal this year is to be more curious. More curious about what you are working on and more curious about what and how the students are learning. Hopefully next year when I’m asked the same question I will know a little more than I did this year.

When you think of your students’ learning, how do you know?

Here’s what lies ahead for a relatively quiet week:


  • K-6 staff meeting (3:15 @ Departures)
  • Class visits (do kids know the big idea?)


  • Class visits (do kids know the big idea?)


  • EA meeting (8:00 am ~ library)
  • Fire Drill (am), Lockdown (pm)
  • Class visits (do kids know the big idea?)


  • Terry Fox Run/Walk
  • Class visits (do kids know the big idea?)


  • Class visits (do kids know the big idea?)

As always, create a great week!

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About the Author: Bruce Mellesmoen


  1. Reading posts like this makes me reaffirm my faith in our education system. Teachers thinking critically outside the box. Meaningfully questioning how they can do better. A parent could not ask for more from their childen’s educators. Teachers/ principals/VPs like this makes me proud to be a part of our school division! Thank you for sharing!

  2. While reading the book Innovators, I’m excited by the thinking behind the innovative ideas and am willing to put it into practice. Measuring success is still where I’m a bit shaky. I plan to put that discuss back to the students and let them set up what would indicate their learning. I’m walking a new path and it might get messy but I’m aiming for deeper understanding and comprehension of the materials we are covering.

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