It is amazing, as a teacher, how many viewpoints I've heard over the past few months about the now-famous "No Zero" policy of certain school boards in our province. I've been asked to weigh in on it a number of times, and I'm sure that a weighing in on it could be of great risk to my career. However, I recently realized that if I'm not passionate enough about education to say something about something that bothers me, I'm not passionate enough to teach.The story goes like this; a teacher hands out zeros to students who do not turn in work. This teacher has decades of experience, and is in line-of-sight from retirement. The school division recently came out with a policy that students should not be allowed to get zeros. The teacher gets suspended, reviewed, and eventually fired for not following this directive of the school division.
First, the teacher should have been fired. As a contracted employee, he is required to follow the directives of his employer. He did not, and he should have been fired.
That doesn't mean I agree with the policy. My question becomes "what about his students?" Although not contracted employees, they are still required to follow the directives of the teacher. They did not, should they not receive equal consequences?
Insert argument here about how zeros can damage a kid's mental well-being. While we're at it, insert a reference to a study proving such (you know, the study done on 6 special needs students).
Has anybody been daring enough to actually do a REAL study? This study should at the very least have two sizeable control groups, one permitted to get zeros, one where zeros are unacceptable. The study should not only follow the students through their formative years, but into adulthood as well, and use employment performance as a measurement tool.
While we're at it, we should do a REAL study on the other extreme, a No 100% system. Because the only person who was perfect died 2000 years ago on a cross.
You see, if a student is never allowed to fail in school, it follows that the same student should expect the same consequences in the workplace. Insert chorus of agreement here from people who have actually employed these students.
But also insert a vehement opposition to the idea that schools prepare students for real life. The unfortunate thing about this is that schools, although they say they prepare kids for the real world, don't. Nothing about high school is anything like the real world. Nobody goes to work, sits in rows, and listens to a lecture. Few people are lucky enough to write essays as their contribution to society and actually get paid for it (I'm certainly not lucky enough). School does NOT prepare students for the real world. At least, not in its present form.
So don't get mad at the No Zero policy, the Grade Level of Achievement system, the Provincial Achievement Tests and Diplomas, and the dichotomous expectations of academic excellence mingled with character development. Get mad at the bureaucrats who don't let teachers do their job.
I don't tell a doctor how to diagnose a medical condition. I don't tell a lawyer how to debate or research. I don't tell a police officer how to approach a domestic dispute. I'm not a professional in those fields.
So why is it okay to tell a teacher how to teach? Why do we have "No Zero" policies, high-stakes provincial tests (for which a student will still receive a zero if they don't complete them), or for that matter, standardized report cards?
If you hire us as professionals, treat us as such. We know how to instruct. We know how to assess. I didn't spend over $60,000 on University, making no money at all for 6 years, to learn how to do what I'm told. I spent it to learn how to do my job properly. If my teaching style requires the ability to assign zeros, to give 100%s, or to give no grades at all, then I should be given the latitude to do so, because I've been trained how to do this.
So the next time I'm asked what I think about this "No Zeros" thing, this will be my response;
"Just let me teach."