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Are Tests Helpful?

Years ago my wife and I lived in the tropical paradise of the Cayman Islands. It was a beautiful country home to some amazing people that to this day I still call friends. One of the benefits of living in such a place is the opportunity to enjoy the ocean and the bevy of marine life that would always astound this Saskatchewan boy. When I first began snorkeling, I used to try to swim up to and observe the myriad of fish that would gather around the colorful coral. I would always be so disappointed that my presence would scare them off. Slowly I began to learn that I did not need to be constantly chasing fish around to get a closer look, rather, I needed to swim out to where they would likely be and then stop. As I would float quietly in the crystal clear Caribbean waters, the fish would begin to appear. Being able to be a silent guest in the world’s aquarium is a gift I will always remember.

I apply this philosophy to my work in our school. Everyday I get to choose how to be in the students’ environment. I can stay in my office and wonder how things are going. Much like the person who never leaves beach, they may enjoy the sun, but never really get to see the magic on the reefs. By staying in my office I might hear how things are going, but I do not get to live it with the students. So I venture out, quietly making my way through the building, strolling in and out of classrooms, looking for opportunities to engage in conversations with teachers and students. Sometimes, it’s an opportunity to help a student fasten a piece of wood on their industrial arts project, sometimes it’s an opportunity to dance with the Kindergarten students.

Earlier this week I had been involved in a heated debate with Aiden, trying to convince him the DC Universe is superior to the Marvel Universe. As I walked away after failing to sway him, the heading on a student’s computer screen caught my eye.

Is Making Students Take Tests On Things They Learn In School Helpful?

This year our staff has been deeply engaged in learning conversations about assessment, and while this could be considered an example of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, it grabbed my attention nonetheless. I felt compelled to talk to Daisy about what she was writing about. She was excited to engage in a conversation about assessment, and her peers who were sitting near by quickly joined in. It was a wonderful discussion that I was so honored to be a part of. I’ve asked her and her teacher, Katharine Kerr (@katharine_kerr ) if they would allow me to share this paper here. They agreed, and I’d love it if you could take a moment to read what a grade eight student from #WaldheimSchool thinks about assessment.

I’m glad I left the office and swam into the waters of learning!

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