Friday, March 09, 2012

Big Fat Zero

I've never really understood why teachers give zeroes. What's a zero? Is it a test grade? A quiz grade? Is it something to stay up all night and worry about? I don't know, so I've never actually threatened anyone with a zero, let alone given one.

But last year, every once in a while, I'd draw a big zero on a piece of paper, and deposit it on the desk of a student who committed some minor infraction. This year, my students have taken it to an art form. First, they started drawing on the zeros, putting faces on them, and writing comments. Sometimes they'd sign the zero as it made its way from their desk to the next one. On Halloween, one of the zeroes morphed into a pumpkin, painted bright orange. That was my favorite.

Lately, my students have been drawing aliens with zero shaped faces and contributing them. And now, I no longer have to give zeroes. The students themselves, when someone slips out of English into a native language, or whatever, walk over and slam the zero on the desk of the offending party. Sometimes kids cover the desk with their arms to try and prevent it, but there's no stopping a kid who's determined to give you a zero.

You can get extra credit in my class as well. If a Spanish-speaker speaks Spanish, I'll turn to a Chinese kid and say, "You never speak Spanish in class, do you?" I've never had a kid disagree. The Spanish speaker will protest. "Mister, she doesn't speak Spanish." I will say, of course she doesn't, and that's why she's getting extra credit.

I'm not sure these methods will make it into the next DOE version of What Teachers Must Do Instead of What We Told You Last Year, but my students seem to like them. I'm gonna stick with it for a while.
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