On Your Mark (Post 3/3)


This book isn’t just a list of things that don’t work. It is this doesn’t work….But you could do this…or this…

20150528_211640Yep…I did this. But now I totally see how zeros don’t make any sense if we want grades to show what students know.

Unrelated note:  I had no idea about the Olympics scoring!


We teach student writers that introductions and conclusions are important and potentially very powerful. Well, this book has a beginning and ending that is mentor text worthy, in my opinion.  Guskey ends with a pep talk.  He tells us that our current grading practices are traditions, but traditions aren’t always best.  That it takes bold and brave leaders to make changes, including educational changes.  As I close the book, I am left encouraged and inspired.  Encouraged…although I have made mistakes in my grading and reporting in the past, I can see what needs to change and how simple the changes can be. Inspired…I want to be part of the change and I want what is best for my students.

Encouraged and inspired.  What more can you ask for in an educational read?

Change…Sometimes it Stinks!

b4c36ba4aea2c28283885c9db858f75cAfter two years of co-teaching, the time to move on has come. She is moving to a new district, a new grade, a new opportunity.  I know she will be so much happier.  I know she will be amazing.  But, I need to be real…this STINKS!

In two years, we have had huge challenges.  We have had huge successes.  We have become best friends.  How can I teach without her by my side…”Don’t cry because it is over.  Smile because it happened.”  Dr. Seuss was a brilliant writer, but I just don’t think I can follow this advise.  In fact, I know I can’t.  As I sit here trying to write, the tears won’t stay away.

I began this post with the intention of writing about my beautiful BFF and all of the amazing experiences we have had.  However, it became this…self-pity and tears.  I guess this is one of the reasons I have stuck with writing.  It is cathartic.  I write things that I am thinking and feeling, but didn’t realize until I started.  For anyone reading that has yet to find the benefits of writing, I promise you it is the cheapest therapy available.

Well, Dr. Seuss, I think I will need to save the smiling for another day.

On Your Mark (Post 2/3)

51OZzdoRMlL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_      I started my reflections on this book here and I will continue below…sharing my notes and my thoughts.  To be honest, after the first three chapters, my thoughts are just extensions of earlier thoughts.  The first few chapters of this book required me to change the way I was thinking about grading and reporting.  However, once my thinking shifted, everything else was kind of like…DUH!  Of course this makes sense.


20150517_20014220150517_200155 (1)

     Reporting student growth on standards has been happening in the primary grades in my district forever.  Third through fifth grade reports standards and a letter grade for each subject.   There isn’t a huge change required for us to make the move to standards based grading and reporting, because that is what we have been doing.   However grades K-5 are only a few of

     One of the points made in the book is that parents like the more detailed profile that standards based reporting will bring, however I still worry.  Letter grades are what we know.  Kids get a free movie for each A they receive (if you have a rare movie rental store near).  Parents grew up with letter grades.   I feel like one of the unmentioned, but very important needs that will come with this shift is the education of parents.  Without a doubt, parents will receive more detailed information about what their child can do and needs to be able to do.  However, the need for educating parents can not be overlooked or under-emphasized.

Education is a shared commitment between dedicated teachers, motivated students and enthusiastic parents with high expectations.
–  Bob Beauprez

Being the Mother of a Boy…

Being the mother of a boy means…20150520_051514

Your kid has permanent dirt stains on his knees.

You live in Lego-land.

You are familiar with superman punches, spears, and Sister Abigails.

The tie for your robe is around your son’s head more often then it is around your robe.

You end up wearing Marvel shirts.

You know the difference between Marvel and DC Comics.


Talk of butts and everything that comes out of them is normal dinner conversation.

Your living room doubles as a soccer field/wrestling ring.

Your heart is full.

A hug can change your day and lift your mood immediately.

Your life is incomplete (and quite boring) with out him.

What is the biggest difference between students and teachers?

“What is the biggest difference between students and teachers?”

This is a question I was asked at an interview recently and there are many possible answers.   My answer..novelty.

We learn that novelty engages students.  We see it in the classroom all the time.  Flashlight Friday?  Quietest day of the year.  Why?  It only happens once or twice.  Kids love anything new and exciting!

Teachers…teachers fear the new.  Novelty is scary.  “Why change something that works?”  If you coach teachers, I guarantee you have heard this one.  Yes, education can move too quickly, drop things that work.  We need to be critical of new strategies, not dropping research based strategies that work for new ones without careful consideration.  But, in general, teachers are resistant to change, the opposite of flexible.  Teachers fear novelty!

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 5.50.49 PMI’m curious, what would your answer be?

Reflections on Being a Mentor

This year I had the privilege of being a mentor to two first year teachers, one of whom was also a member of our third grade team.  We meet once a week plus I can guarantee that I will receive at least one email every Sunday night filled with questions.  She always includes a huge, unneeded apology with her questions.

As we sat Friday, reflecting on the year, she said that she wouldn’t have made it through the year without me.  She had mentioned earlier in the week that she always thinks WWJBD – What Would Jennie Bless Do?  While these comments are flattering and a huge confidence booster for me, they are not true.  She is an amazing, gifted, natural first year teacher.

All of her questions are the reason she learns so much.  It is because of her questions that I know how to help her.   She doesn’t need a bracelet that says WWJBD.  She knows exactly what to do and she just needs to be confident about her own abilities. I’ve found that this is one of the biggest parts of being a mentor to a first year teacher, helping them have confidence in themselves and their abilities!

WWAD:  What Would Amanda Do?  (Her name is Amanda. 🙂 )


On Your Mark (Post 1)


After reading On Your Mark, there is so much information and so many thoughts running through my head.  I have decided to share some of my notes on the first two chapters.  Then, I will share one way I have adjusted my grading/reporting practice based on my reading.

We are giving our students more chances to fail than succeed. The first time I saw this visual, a giant light bulb appeared! I had never looked at percentage grades like this before and I was sold on standards based grading.
This makes so much sense!


Application:Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 8.05.07 PM

In a week long fables unit, our third grade readers were learning three things:  identify characteristics of fables, sequence events in a story, and infer the moral of a fable.

We created a summative assessment.  In the past, each question would have a correct answer, a percentage would be found, and then that percentage would be recorded in the grade book.  The end.

However, we graded each of the three sections separately.  Parents were then given a letter informing them if their child was able to do each independently, with prompting, or not yet.

Because we still need to report letter grades, we had to convert each section into a percentage to enter into the grade book.  However, each was a separate score and can/will be updated as reteaching and continued learning occurs.

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 8.05.16 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-03 at 8.37.14 PM


This makes so much more sense to me.  A student can master sequencing events independently, while only being able to infer a moral with teacher support.  Why would we ever lump all of this together, assign a percentage correct, plug it into the grade book, and move on?  Because that is the way it has always been done?  Well, it doesn’t work for me anymore.  I want more for my students.