Educating Our Obstacles

Two days ago, my blog post discussed the teacher in Alberta who was suspended for giving students zeros. The news article that I found, agreed with the teacher. It was indicated that by not giving students zeros, teachers are simply letting the students off the hook. Over my years as a pre-service teacher, I have been creating my own educational philosophy. Many influential and amazing professors at the University of Regina have helped in doing so, and influenced me for the better. There have been many times that my thoughts and beliefs have been challenged. Over the years this has influenced me to become very critical – over absolutely everything that I do, see, hear, and learn about. Although this sometimes gets me into trouble –  for the reason that I seem to have an opinion on everything, it also is what helps me continue to create my educational philosophy and understand what I believe my job to be as an educator.

In my opinion, there are many instances where teachers lose track of what and why they are engaging in assessment. This concept of testing students has become so “normalized” in schools that we don’t even think twice about it. What is its purpose? What are the benefits for the students? How is it going to help my students grow? I must be clear in that, I am not saying that I do not think that assessment is important. Assessment is the backbone to many aspects of teaching. However, what I am saying is that there are times that we have lost sight of why we are doing it. In my Assessment course that I took last semester, I had a professor, Dr. Marc Spooner, who made a comment about assessment that will always stick with me. He simply questioned our class to think about what we are trying to assess every time that we are assessing and evaluating a student. In regard to the handing out zeros policy, what was the teacher trying to assess? This is a very important question to consider when making a judgement about the situation. Was the teaching trying to assess the student’s ability to hand something in on time? Or, was he trying to assess the content of the work? From the reading that I have done, the teacher was trying to assess the content. Therefore, I do not agree with him giving the students’ zeros. What kind of learning does this provide for the student? Did the teacher take into consideration the context? What was going on in the students’ life that impacted whether or not that assignment was handed in? Now to these comments, you will hear many people say “in the real world you are not given second chances.” When I hear that comment, I have to beg to differ. When you are working in a work context and you have a deadline what do you do as an individual to meet that deadline? What are the indicating factors in your life that allow you to meet that deadline? Has not one person ever gone to a boss and said, “Things are crazy at home, the children are sick, I am sorry but I cannot meet the deadline.” Has there never been a University student who has emailed the professor with a reason as to why their work will not be handed in on time; and then when that professor responds by saying that there will be deductions made, I guarantee 90% of the time that student complains about how the professor does not realize that they “have a life.” I could go on and on with instances where someone in “real life” has been given a second chance, and I challenge you to think about if you have ever required one. Therefore, I must argue that it is not handing assignments in on time that is going to affect whether or not a student succeeds in their life however, I can bet that continually receiving zeros will.

A peer of mine linked as a comment on my initial blog post a Facebook comments thread of many thoughts regarding this topic. Some very scary comments are made here, I suggest you check them out. When I first read these comments, I was shocked. I was shocked by the amount of people negatively commenting about the teachers and how they are the reason that the up and coming generation is “lazy.” However, I had to contain myself and put myself in those people’s shoes. What type of education have these individuals making these comments had? Have they had the opportunity to have an education as I have been so fortunate to, with some amazing professors who have directly impacted my ways of thinking and helped me to be the pre-service teacher that I am? I question myself these things, and try to put myself in these other individuals shoes because I wonder if I had not gone through this education program what my opinion would be? Everyone is in titled to an opinion. What our job is as future educators, is to educate our own obstacles (individuals)  about our beliefs. Sometimes that is all it will take, is those individuals being able to see the other side to a situation, being able to see why giving students zeros is not  the best decision. Many people will not have their opinions changed, just as I do not think that my own opinion on this topic will change. However, we must try. In addition, think of all your future students that you will be teaching. If you can affect them, then maybe when they are older, the kind of comments that we will be seeing regarding a topic such as this will be significantly different.

Another blogger who I have become very fond of reading their posts, has their opinions on this topic as well. I suggest you check them out, some very insightful points made by this gentleman. As always I love to hear thoughts and opinions, especially if they are contradicting. How do you think that we should go forth with this understanding that there are many individuals in society who believe that zeros should be handed out?


2 thoughts on “Educating Our Obstacles

  1. Although I do not have a lot of experience marking assignments, I already know I am not a teacher who agrees with assigning children a zero. When you get to high school or university and students are handing in assignments to achieve credit, that is a different scenario. I believe that if a student simply does not hand in an assignment (after been warned or given an extension), is guilty of plagiarism, etc. then ‘zeros’ are an entirely different ball game. However, in elementary school where it is illegal to hold a child back from proceeding to the next grade, what is the point in a zero? Obviously this child who has done something to make the teacher think he/she deserves a zero needs a boost of confidence and encouragement to complete there assignment thoroughly. By simply giving that child a zero is not going to allow them to gain the confidence they need to try to achieve better on subsequent assignments.

  2. Pingback: Cheating? Who Needs It? | pedagogical pondering


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