“Get Tough” Education

Ok, so I taught in Ontario from 2004-2007 and I’m currently trying to teach here again. Since I was lucky enough to teach Co-operative Education, I didn’t really have to pay that much attention to what the rest of the school was doing. It was pretty god damned awesome, for the record.

One thing always managed to get my goat though. It was a little-known, under-utilized, but ever-present policy that stated teachers could not assign a mark of zero for an assignment, nor could they deduct any more than 10% if the assignment was passed in late. So, let’s consider that, shall we?

-A student decides not to do an assignment. At all. Ever. But I’m still not supposed to give the kid zero? What exactly do I assign them? A one for being persistent enough not to pass something in?

-A student decides to not hand in an assignment on time. We’re not talking a few days late. How about they hand in all their assignments on the second to last day of school? Who’s stuck holding the shitty end of the stick?

-A student decides to wait until just after assignments have been handed back to the other students before sneaking a peak at the “correct” answers, moseys on home and does the assignment. If it’s 100% correct, the student will now get a 90%. Pretty decent way to cheat the system if you ask me.

I see what you did there.


So, these are just a couple of scenarios, but they were a reality for a lot of teachers for a long time. Some genius in the government thought, “Hey! Why hold students accountable for ANYTHING!?! Why not strangle a teacher’s ability to ATTEMPT to instill some sort of responsibility and accountability into students?!!” An thus, policy on separating “learning” from “behaviour” was born.

I remember meetings in which other teachers were banging their heads against their desks, having overly heated debates and, quite frankly, swearing like a bunch of sailors, even the prissy sweater-vest crew! It was pretty fantastic. Principals and Vice Principals were charged with the duty of enforcing this policy, passing it down through department heads and often times stating how much they thought it was an asinine policy, but that they had a job to do as the middle managers of the board. They had plenty of great retorts to the questions and obvious issues posed by the staff.

Some of the real gems were:

-If a student completely or partially plagiarizes, an option to rewrite the assignment should be given. If the student wants to know what their mark would be without rewriting, you actually have to try and calculate how much of the work was plagiarized and try to mark accordingly. A zero cannot be given. Even if you have a contract at the start of the year that fully and completely explains plagiarizing and the consequences. Even if you teach a full year course on plagiarizing and the final exam is just not to plagiarize. FML.

-The question was raised about students handing in assignments after other students’ assignments had been marked. The answer was that teachers should create new assignments for these students that will reflect the same learning outcomes. Teachers have nothing but free time, so they might as well use it, right?

-If a students misses most or all of your classes (attendance was also a behaviour, so you do the math) it is now your responsibility as a teacher to ensure the student is caught up on all notes, practice assignments, tests, etc. etc. if the student seeks you out and requests this material. Again, using that free time wisely.

Ok, I’ll get to the point now.

Ontario has finally repealed the policy of “let students do whatever the fuck they want“.

My dreams have come true! If I actually get a job teaching (ever again…sob) I can toss zeros around like it’s nobody’s business! Of course, my hope and dream is that I’ll get a Co-op position again, so I can quietly and happily ignore most of what else is going on around me.

Ok, in all seriousness, I really am glad to see this policy changed, and just so you know, YES I did actual work as a Co-op teacher. It’s just different work than being pretty much any other kind of teacher. My ability to still give zeroes on “assignments” existed because, well, if you don’t show up for work without a seriously valid excuse, I don’t give a rat’s ass what policy says, you’re not going to pass my course. I’m not actually looking forward to handing out shitty grades, and in fact, I hate failing kids. I want to see all my kids pass (except that one douche bag that showed up drunk to my night school class and puked McNuggets all over the floor. I was happy to fail that little fucker) and this policy reversal now gives teachers a little bit of power back. The power to motivate kids to do their work on time and hopefully prepare them a bit more for real life, as opposed to telling them that no one really cares about deadlines, plagiarizing or cheating.

Does anyone else smell puke?

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~ by Andrea on August 27, 2010.

12 Responses to ““Get Tough” Education”

  1. Wow, that policy sucks! I am glad they changed it. I also get completely insane about the “give plagiarists a chance to rewrite” thing. I had to let a grad student — A GRAD STUDENT — rewrite an assignment because of this attitude. Let ’em fail, and hell yeah you’re glad to fail some of ’em when they act that way. I’m sorry, but not all students are good people, and we can’t make policies assuming that they are.

    • It’s just ridiculous not to have any real punishment for full on cheating. Students are taught what it is to plagiarize and how to NOT do it, so why let them get away with it? I’ve had it in my classes, and upon first offence, they’re given the option to do an assignment on the topic of plagiarizing and the most they can receive is half value of whatever the original assignment was to be marked out of. (Fuck you preposition!) Mind you, this was when I was teaching in a jail…not in the public school system!

  2. PS Have you ever seen this poster for failure?

  3. As I was reading, I kept waiting for the part that said you just made that policy up.

    The old policy sounds like a slacker’s dream. Glad to hear they changed it!

  4. Amazing–how did those policies get approved in the first place? And who finally figured out that they weren’t helping anyone? The teachers are going to have a fun time retraining the kids!

  5. Definitely a positive change!

    I also agree with a deduction for handing in an assignnment after the deadline, unless a request for an extension is unavoidable/well-deserved. It’s a good lesson to learn, for life in general!

    • Exactly! I’m not some cold hearted bitch that has no compassion! I am all for granting extensions, bending the rules, etc but the kid has to have the brainpower to come talk to me about it first!

  6. I love when I stumble on your blog!

  7. Good Lord! God help us. Seems the US is lagging behind in many ways these days as all this ‘no fail’ crap is still the rage down here. Good luck on landing that job.

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