A recent post by Joe Bower, “Giving Students a Zero Teachers Them a Lesson” resonates.

Zeroes motivate kids — they motivate them to quit.

What a great quote. And concept.

We recently saw a perfect example of this. A few weeks ago, my daughter was caught “cheating” on a worksheet (a worksheet… in 9th grade. in science. PLEASE!)

I had seen the girls working together on said worksheet the night before. I expect an answer was getting copied from one page to another. But was that cheating? Or collaboaration?

Anyway, the teacher called my daughter and her friend out in front of the whole class. Told them they had a zero on the assignment and no possibility of any more extra credit. He didn’t give them a chance to explain. He didn’t listen.

This “zero” did exactly what Joe Bower said. My daughter had never been in trouble before, and this zero caused to her want to quit. Her grade in that class plummeted, her motivation was gone. Read the rest of Bower’s blog. He teaches at a children’s psychiatric assessment unit.  It breaks your heart to read about his experiences with kids who “…have been fed a steady diet of zeros for years.”

Fortunately, my daughter was mad, and didn’t let it get her too down – although I doubt she’ll ever enjoy science much after this humiliating experience. We saw, for a moment, exactly what Bower refers to. I could easily see how getting zero after zero becomes a vicious circle. My daughter had enough non-zeros (and I don’t mean grades) to be strong and survive. She moved on. Sadly, not all kids can.

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