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Leading By Example, in the 21st Century...

The essay is from an essay called: All the Fish in the River: An Essay on Assessment.

"More than a quarter century of experiences in the classroom has taught me not to be too sure of where I am going, and that often the best way to measure learning won't occur to me until my students and I are in the midst of the learning itself. "I've come to think of myself as like a fishing guide on a wonderful wild river, where the current is swift and difficult to negotiate, into which I wade with my learners to teach them how to navigate the stream and how to cast a fly to the bright fish, invisible to their eyes at first, swimming in the river.

"The river is the flow of knowledge, undimmed and un-damned since the beginning of time, and the trout as the thoughts my learners might hook, if they learn how. "I rejoice with them when they succeed. If they choose not to fish or to ignore my instruction, they have every right to make their choices. Whatever the case, my instruction must be both competent and patient and serve my learners, not myself.

"I've caught my share of good fish; now it's their turn. It can be a wonderful experience, and I refuse to reduce its wonder to a sober accounting of how many fish were caught and the length and weight of each fish. It's a catch and release thing. Learners don't get to keep the thoughts to themselves, but they learn how to hook them, and they have the experience of the river."

In short for me, as a classroom teacher, it is frustrating when the powers that be want more and more evidence of learning. They stress that we need to assess, assess, assess......and then give them the numbers. I think there is more to it than assessment. In fact I think teaching and learning can occur without assessment- especially formal (formative or summative) analytical assessment.

I think observation and conversation can be wonderful tools of assessment. I envision taking a walk with a student or having a meal together; and asking the student to tell me what they think, what they have read, what their experiences are telling them about the world. That, to me, is as valuable as any multiple choice exam that really does not tell me that much about learning.

I am in the teaching business.....but it does not have to be like a business. I want my students to learn, but that must come from within them, and hopefully my teaching will create an opportunity for them to learn.


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