It’s hard to believe so many people would be cheering on a teacher for giving a zero. But suspended high school physics teacher Lynden Dorval has become a local hero for refusing to adhere to the Edmonton Public School’s no-zero policy and giving failing grades to students with incomplete work.
The problem with a no zero policy is that it teaches students that they don’t need to be responsible for themselves or their actions. Although there can be legitimate reasons that a student might be unable to complete work, most teachers are more than willing to accommodate students with special circumstances that require extensions or rescheduled test dates.
Refusing to give zeros does more harm than good to students. They need to be taught that there are real consequences for not completing assigned work. It’s no shock to any student that even one zero can drastically change your term mark. If young students know they are responsible for their own academic well-being, it will ensure that they’re ready to meet the challenges of real life after grade school — you won’t get paid if you don’t show up for work.
The claims that failing a student for incomplete work does not accurately represent that student’s knowledge are baseless. While it is true that there are many ways to test someone’s knowledge in a given field, and each student may have their own challenges, it’s hardly too much to ask that students hand in their assignments on time. If students hope to make a life for themselves in post-secondary, they’re going to need to know how to meet strict deadlines. That’s part of the test. You might be the best cook who ever lived, but you don’t get any credit until you prepare meals that prove it.
The reasoning behind the policy is that if a student can’t complete work, there must be an underlying reason like a behavioural issue. And teachers must do all they can to find out why a student hasn’t completed their work. However, a public school teacher shouldn’t have to bend over backwards to accommodate all students. A teacher is responsible for teaching the course material and marking work. They shouldn’t have to play detective in order to find out why someone didn’t do their homework. There is support for students who genuinely struggle with school or have trouble at home, but withholding zeros in all cases encourages laziness in those who do not have such issues.
This policy may have been designed with good intentions, but it’s actually doing a disservice to these kids. If students are pushed through the school system regardless of whether or not they complete assignments, it’s only setting them up for failure further down the road. If educators truly care about the children they teach, it’s only fair that they show them what happens when work is not completed.
The remnants of chivalry still linger today, especially in the dating world.