Z is for Zero

| April 14, 2014

I might have received no more than five zeros in my academic career, none of which given in consequence of cheating or plagiarizing, but rather for a misunderstanding of a deadline.

The idea of receiving a zero speaks to the notion of assessment in education—that, as educators, we need to assign a grade on a scale of 0 to100. Grades provide some formality to gauging where each student’s current academic standing is in whatever class—something I understand is necessary, but not something that should be the only means of understanding a student’s skills, some of which assessment might not measure. The extremity in the number zero, in comparison to infinity, makes me feel like the former has this finite quality to it that unsettles whomever receives this kind of grade. Circumstances, in lieu of a student getting every question wrong, seem to contribute to the scoring of a zero: A student cheats on an exam, A student plagiarizes a paper, or A student fails to submit work on time, to name a few.

I remember I got very sick in fifth grade: I missed about a month’s worth of classes. I kept moving my hands around as I talked to my teacher: I dreaded the fact that I had to make up my tests.

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