Our Keepsake Journal is Here! 🎉

Recently, an Orlando middle school teacher went viral for posting her goodbye letter to students in dramatic fashion on a whiteboard. She says she was fired for giving students zeros for homework not turned in (which was reportedly against district policy), while the district maintains her performance was subpar and has alleged physical abuse. No matter who you believe, the news has captured the attention of many.

The debate has been reignited: are zeros appropriate? 

And if we’re not handing out zeros, what, exactly, ARE we handing out? 

As a teacher myself, let me give you the lowdown: schools in America are changing. I know you’re wildly surprised to hear this, but kids just aren’t the same as we were growing up. Learning styles have evolved, and research—true, real, good research—has shown that perhaps we’ve had it wrong all along.

We all managed to survive a school system that had the traditional 0-100 percent grading scale with correlating letter grades A-F. But what if we shifted our perspective from numerical grading to standards grading? A quick Google search of standards-based grading will show this model is being adopted in many school districts across the United States. 

The focus is beginning to shift away from numbers, and more importance is being placed on actual student learning. Which, you know, is why they’re in their chairs to begin with. 

To learn.

Somewhere, in a meeting with provided water and stale grocery store cookies, a group of well-educated people got together and decided what the standard of learning should be for each content area. In Nebraska, the State Department allowed teachers to sit in on these meetings. Each grade level, and each core content area (math, science, reading, etc.) has it’s own set of standards. 

In a standards-based school system, your child is graded on these standards. A scale system will be in place—like a 1, 2, 3, or 4. Four is “advanced” and 1 is “needs improvement” or “still learning”. 

What does that mean? Your child could sit at a 2 all semester long, trying, trying, practicing, and practicing. Then, magically before Christmas, his brain development might catch up—and maybe multiplication will finally click. Then, the teacher would afford your student a 3 or 4. 

Do you see what happened there? Less emphasis was placed on the grade, and more emphasis was placed on whether or not the student actually understood

Now, before you get angry in the comments, there are some killer kinks to work out, just like with any new system. Mostly, people are concerned about effort. And more often than not, that argument sounds a whole bunch like this: if a kid doesn’t turn something in, he doesn’t get a zero? So why would he turn ANYTHING in? 

Educators hear you. Loud and clear, we hear you. 

Here’s the deal though: standards-based grading cuts out a ton of crap. You remember those color-by-numbers? Word searches? Crosswords? Do those have any real educational value? Not really. Does a child’s grade need to plummet because he or she doesn’t find all of the words in a Halloween word search?

That’s a definite no.

Because we’ve got real, true standards to base our learning on, the copious amounts of filler work (worksheets, mainly) get pushed to the recycle bin. Instead, we go right to the heart of the matter—and to what should’ve been important all along: 


The things students ARE turning in are important, necessary artifacts that prove they have mastered concepts. That means Suzy and Timmy and whomever else don’t get to NOT turn something in. It’s simply unacceptable. 

You heard me.


Because we’ve cut out the word searches and other hoopla from our classrooms, we’ve got a little more time to focus on what truly matters: learning.

Our expectations have effectively been raised. 

Some schools have even gone as far as adopting a citizenship grade. This scale covers positivity in the classroom, self-control, manners, and punctuality. Things like kindness, humility, and yes, even effort are found within the descriptors of the 1-4 point rubric. 

Maybe the Orlando teacher was fired because she refused to submit to the no zero grading policy of the district (which is somewhat ironic, if you think about it). Or maybe there really is a deeper story there. Regardless, the conversations between stakeholders (that’s you, parents), teachers, administrators, and the people who that make all the laws need to continue.

Education is an ever-changing landscape, but one thing will always be certain: your child’s learning will be the top priority in every teacher’s classroom.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Rebecca Cooper

Rebecca Cooper-Thumann is an English teacher in a sleepy town in the midwest. She has published four novels and is currently working on a fifth. She has a precocious four-year-old son, she loves nachos and Jesus, and she tries to live her life every day rooted in courage and joy. 

I Thought Our Friendship Would Be Unbreakable

In: Friendship, Journal, Relationships
Two friends selfie

The message notification pinged on my phone. A woman, once one of my best friends, was reaching out to me via Facebook. Her message simply read, “Wanted to catch up and see how life was treating you!”  I had very conflicting feelings. It seemed with that one single message, a flood of memories surfaced. Some held some great moments and laughter. Other memories held disappointment and hurt of a friendship that simply had run its course. Out of morbid curiosity, I clicked on her profile page to see how the years had been treating her. She was divorced and still...

Keep Reading

The First 10 Years: How Two Broken People Kept Their Marriage from Breaking

In: Journal, Marriage, Relationships
The First Ten Years: How Two Broken People Kept Their Marriage from Breaking www.herviewfromhome.com

We met online in October of 2005, by way of a spam email ad I was THIS CLOSE to marking as trash. Meet Single Christians! My cheese alert siren sounded loudly, but for some reason, I unchecked the delete box and clicked through to the site. We met face-to-face that Thanksgiving. As I awaited your arrival in my mother’s kitchen, my dad whispered to my little brother, “Hide your valuables. Stacy has some guy she met online coming for Thanksgiving dinner.” We embraced for the first time in my parents’ driveway. I was wearing my black cashmere sweater with the...

Keep Reading

To The Mother Who Is Overwhelmed

In: Inspiration, Motherhood
Tired woman with coffee sitting at table

I have this one head. It is a normal sized head. It didn’t get bigger because I had children. Just like I didn’t grow an extra arm with the birth of each child. I mean, while that would be nice, it’s just not the case. We keep our one self. And the children we add on each add on to our weight in this life. And the head didn’t grow more heads because we become a wife to someone. Or a boss to someone. We carry the weight of motherhood. The decisions we must make each day—fight the shorts battle...

Keep Reading

You’re a Little Less Baby Today Than Yesterday

In: Journal, Motherhood
Toddler sleeping in mother's arms

Tiny sparkles are nestled in the wispy hair falling across her brow, shaken free of the princess costume she pulled over her head this morning. She’s swathed in pink: a satiny pink dress-up bodice, a fluffy, pink, slightly-less-glittery-than-it-was-two-hours-ago tulle skirt, a worn, soft pink baby blanket. She’s slowed long enough to crawl into my lap, blinking heavy eyelids. She’s a little less baby today than she was only yesterday.  Soon, she’ll be too big, too busy for my arms.  But today, I’m rocking a princess. The early years will be filled with exploration and adventure. She’ll climb atop counters and...

Keep Reading

Dear Husband, I Loved You First

In: Marriage, Motherhood, Relationships
Man and woman kissing in love

Dear husband, I loved you first. But often, you get the last of me. I remember you picking me up for our first date. I spent a whole hour getting ready for you. Making sure every hair was in place and my make-up was perfect. When you see me now at the end of the day, the make-up that is left on my face is smeared. My hair is more than likely in a ponytail or some rat’s nest on the top of my head. And my outfit, 100% has someone’s bodily fluids smeared somewhere. But there were days when...

Keep Reading

Stop Being a Butthole Wife

In: Grief, Journal, Marriage, Relationships
Man and woman sit on the end of a dock with arms around each other

Stop being a butthole wife. No, I’m serious. End it.  Let’s start with the laundry angst. I get it, the guy can’t find the hamper. It’s maddening. It’s insanity. Why, why, must he leave piles of clothes scattered, the same way that the toddler does, right? I mean, grow up and help out around here, man. There is no laundry fairy. What if that pile of laundry is a gift in disguise from a God you can’t (yet) see? Don’t roll your eyes, hear me out on this one. I was a butthole wife. Until my husband died. The day...

Keep Reading

I Can’t Be Everyone’s Chick-fil-A Sauce

In: Friendship, Journal, Living, Relationships
woman smiling in the sun

A couple of friends and I went and grabbed lunch at Chick-fil-A a couple of weeks ago. It was delightful. We spent roughly $20 apiece, and our kids ran in and out of the play area barefoot and stinky and begged us for ice cream, to which we responded, “Not until you finish your nuggets,” to which they responded with a whine, and then ran off again like a bolt of crazy energy. One friend had to climb into the play tubes a few times to save her 22-month-old, but it was still worth every penny. Every. Single. One. Even...

Keep Reading

Love Notes From My Mother in Heaven

In: Faith, Grief, Journal, Living
Woman smelling bunch of flowers

Twelve years have passed since my mother exclaimed, “I’ve died and gone to Heaven!” as she leaned back in her big donut-shaped tube and splashed her toes, enjoying the serenity of the river.  Twelve years since I stood on the shore of that same river, 45 minutes later, watching to see if the hopeful EMT would be able to revive my mother as she floated toward his outstretched hands. Twelve years ago, I stood alone in my bedroom, weak and trembling, as I opened my mother’s Bible and all the little keepsakes she’d stowed inside tumbled to the floor.  It...

Keep Reading

Sometimes Friendships End, No Matter How Hard You Try

In: Friendship, Journal, Relationships
Sad woman alone without a friend

I tried. We say these words for two reasons. One: for our own justification that we made an effort to complete a task; and two: to admit that we fell short of that task. I wrote those words in an e-mail tonight to a friend I had for nearly 25 years after not speaking to her for eight months. It was the third e-mail I’ve sent over the past few weeks to try to reconcile with a woman who was more of a sister to me at some points than my own biological sister was. It’s sad when we drift...

Keep Reading

Goodbye to the House That Built Me

In: Grown Children, Journal, Living, Relationships
Ranch style home as seen from the curb

In the winter of 1985, while I was halfway done growing in my mom’s belly, my parents moved into a little brown 3 bedroom/1.5 bath that was halfway between the school and the prison in which my dad worked as a corrections officer. I would be the first baby they brought home to their new house, joining my older sister. I’d take my first steps across the brown shag carpet that the previous owner had installed. The back bedroom was mine, and mom plastered Smurf-themed wallpaper on the accent wall to try to get me to sleep in there every...

Keep Reading