Edmonton teacher suspended for giving zero grades to students who deserve zeros
Teachers, take note: you can't give school kids zeros on assignments in Edmonton. If you do, you might get suspended.
At least that's what happened on May 18 to high school physics teacher Lynden Dorval, who contravened his school's policy and gave some students zeros for failing to complete assignments. Dorval, who's been teaching for 35 years, is appealing the suspension but fully expects to be fired from his position at Ross Sheppard High School.
The school's "no-zero" policy was brought in a year and a half ago, ostensibly to help motivate kids to do their work but probably also to prevent children from feeling the shame and guilt that rightly accompanies a failing grade. If a student takes a test and can't answer a single question correctly, he or she can still receive a zero. However, school policy says that if a student doesn't turn in an assignment, instead of the terror-inducing zero that could potentially hurt a student's precious baby feelings, teachers must assign a euphemistic designation.The school outlines 16 such designations on its website to be used in regards to incompleted assignments, including NHI (not handed in), CAN (chose not to attempt), and ELT (elite athlete).
After whitewashing the truth of the matter—that the student didn't complete his or her work in a timely fashion and submit it to be graded—the teacher then has to work with the student to find out why the assignment wasn't completed. Because obviously the failure to do your damn homework is a behavioural issue, not a question of whether or not you can do the work.
Edmonton school district superintendent Edgar Schmidt believes that the no-zero policy motivates kids to work harder. "Really, we’re actually pursuing students to try to get them to demonstrate what they know," Schmidt told the Edmonton Journal. “Simply taking them off the hook with a zero that says they don’t have to do it anymore is actually not helping kids get to the learning.”
However, Dorval feels his methods are just as effective; printouts delivered to students showing the effect of a zero on their grade often spurred them to get assignments in, and Dorval made himself available to help his students outside of regular school hours.
So let's examine the lesson this teaches students: if you don't do your homework, it's not because you're stupid. (You're never stupid, you magical, special snowflakes.) No, you obviously just need to be coddled into doing the bare minimum of work required to pass a class. You don't need to learn to be responsible; the rest of society will simply bend to your will and baby you for the rest of your life. Also, moving back in with your parents at 25 is totally a viable life option. Hell, don't even bother leaving the nest in the first place; just get mommy and daddy to petition whatever postsecondary institution you're attending to stop handing out failing grades so you never have to face the reality that maybe you're a shitty, unmotivated slacker.
Instead of teaching children to take personal responsibility for their actions and, you know, learn to meet deadlines instead of coming up with bullshit reasons why they didn't do their homework, I can't help but feel like Ross Sheppard High School is merely helping to foster entitlement, laziness, and apathy in the next generation.
Lynden Dorval, I salute you for standing up for what you believe in and for not backing down in light of a completely absurd and misguided school policy. If there were more teachers like you, maybe kids these days would have a better work ethic.
And while I'm at it, thanks to all the teachers I had in high school who were tough but taught me the importance of personal responsibility and meeting deadlines. Because of you, I didn't start failing classes until college—and I certainly didn't blame the professors for my shitty marks.
Once upon a time, Miranda Nelson was a good student. Now you can find her on Twitter.