If You Can’t Give Students Zero, Give Them 1 or 0.1 Per Cent

In September 2012, Lynden Dorval, a physics teacher in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, was fired for giving students a mark of zero for work that wasn’t handed in or tests not taken (CBC). It went against the school’s policy of not giving students zeroes, apparently, at Ross Sheppard High (and I’m sure at some other schools around the world).

Well, talk about STUPID school policies!

I don’t know who this Ron Bradley principal of Ross Sheppard High thinks he is, or what he thinks knows, but giving students marks for things they don’t do is utterly illogical. Ron has said otherwise, with some bull about behavioral codes being given first, and then “ultimately” a zero mark if it’s not solved, so he backs the policy. Even so, it’s still a STUPID policy! I don’t care whether it’s for their self-esteem or whatever. Students have to learn to meet deadlines and earn their marks. So if they got zero the first time around, it should be zero that they get! Might as well learn when the consequences are a little less impacting than something like a job, and in a situation where you can compensate for it through other projects, tests and exams.

However, teachers at the Ross Sheppard High said that Bradley’s “ultimate possibility of a zero mark” comment was a lie (CBC).

To Lynden Dorval’s credit, he stood by his principle (the homonym of the one he didn’t stand by). He defied the school policy despite of being threatened with discipline, to the point that he was fired for it. It is truly admirable, I must say! However, it is not something every teacher can afford to do, evident by the various comments made by teachers at the school under anonymity for fear of reprisals.

So what can teachers do if they can’t give zero marks?

When I criticize, I do so with potential feasible solutions. They give my criticisms validity that there are really better, or just other, feasible options than the one criticized. Otherwise, I might just be griping about what could be the best option available, even if not the perfect option. There isn’t a perfect solution for most things in life, you know!

So here’s what I propose to those teachers who can’t give zero marks.

Give marks like 1 per cent, or better yet, 0.1% or 0.9%.

The 1% mark abides by the no zero mark policy. While it gives the student something s/he doesn’t deserve, it’s a negligible amount. The odds would be remarkable that a student would pass on 1% of some fraction of an entire term’s grade out of 100 per cent.

Call it a sympathy point or something. You’re trying to be sympathetic to the pathetic future that student has ahead of him/her if this zero mark trend kept happening.

However, while we’re on teaching lessons, you might want to sneak in a little math and make a little point. Give them a decimal percentage score.

  • Give them 0.1% to say it’s worth that little, or
  • Give them 0.9% to say it’s close, but it’s not even worth one measly percentage point.

Either mark should raise some eyebrows to the students and/or at home!

Lynden Dorval’s happy ending

Lynden Dorval’s story, fortunately, has a happy ending. Within a week of Lynden getting fired, someone at Tempo Private School in Edmonton had the common sense to realize that Lynden was not only teacher with good common sense, but also one with passion and conviction to be a positive role model for its students from real actions in his life that spoke volumes. So they hired Lynden! Tempo also has a school policy that allows its teachers to award zeroes! (CBC)

Hopefully, it has students that Lynden won’t have to be giving zeroes to! 🙂

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