Most of us who attended middle school remember just how difficult those years could be. Being a teenager is hard. You’re coming into your body, your emotions and hormones are out of whack, and in addition to all of that, you still have to keep up with your schoolwork and attend class.
Luckily, many of us are fortunate enough to have teachers who make learning fun during those important, formative years. Diane Tirado of Port St. Lucie, Florida, was a great social studies teacher who for many years, made learning fun. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop her from being a casualty of a worrying trend she could never have seen coming.
Everyone loved Mrs. Tirado’s social studies class. For most of her 17-year career, Mrs. Tirado was the kind of teacher who could inspire even the laziest eighth-grade student. Recently though, the 52-year-old teacher was beginning to find that the latest generation had a bit of a problem turning in work.
Mrs. Tirado had recently begun working at West Gate K-8 School and was still technically under contract as a teacher on probation when she was suddenly and unceremoniously fired. It was September 14th, not a few weeks into the school year, when she received the notice of her termination. Being on probation, there wasn’t much she could do about it.
Never Said Goodbye
“I got fired,” Mrs. Tirado explained to CBS12. “I was packing my stuff, and I was not going to see the kids.” The fact that she wouldn’t even be able to physically say goodbye to her students made her feel even worse about the whole situation. As she packed up her things, she thought back to what had started her trouble in the first place.
For the first assignment of the semester, Mrs. Tirado had asked her students to do something quite fun. She’d asked them to keep a journal for two weeks in the same way a 15th-century explorer would. In this “explorer’s notebook,” students would record historical notes and draw maps reflecting what they were learning about in class.
No Work Unturned
Despite the fact that this was something of an offbeat, creative assignment, Mrs. Tirado soon discovered that several of her students just weren’t doing the work. Most of them were content to do their homework of course, but there were a few that remained heedless of her warnings and persisted in their laziness.
In addition to her lazy students, Mrs. Tirado also had to endure a litany of complaints from their parents as well. The angry parents argue that the homework assignment she had given was far too hefty a load for their kids. Eventually, Mrs. Tirado was called down to the principal’s office. The administration was not happy to be receiving calls from unhappy parents.
“I got called down to the principal’s office because parents were not happy with me. It was ruining my life for weeks,” explained Mrs. Tirado. It only made matters worse that, as a result of them not doing the work, she gave many of the students no credit for the assignments. It seems reasonable to any sane person; if you don’t do the work, you get no credit.
Unfortunately, the school administrators did not follow this presumably infallible logic and it was during one of her many visits to the principal’s office that Mrs. Tirado learned about the schools mostly-unknown “No Zero” grading policy. There, written in big red letters in the school’s handbook, were the words, “NO ZERO’S – LOWEST POSSIBLE GRADE IS 50%.”
She didn’t think that the group of students was deserving of any credit, partial or otherwise if they willingly chose to do none of the work. “I’m used to kids not handing in work … but then chasing them until the report cards are in to make sure they make it up with extra credit. But I don’t give a grade for nothing.”
The Stated Reason
Officially, Mrs. Tirado was let go because she went against official school policy, but she believes that it was something else entirely. “I loudly bucked the system,” she admits. “I refused to do their policy. I guess you would call that defiance.” The reason she thought this, was because of some confusing nuances in the No Zero rule itself.
The West Gate Student and Parent Handbook, the one that indicates the No Zero grading policy, has some confusing rules regarding this policy. The most egregious of these is the overt grading scale above the No Zero wording. How can there be a scale for non-work? It vexed Mrs. Tirado. So before she left, she decided to leave a message.
Even if she didn’t get to say a proper goodbye, Mrs. Tirado did ensure that her students knew what was going on. She did this by writing a message on the classroom whiteboard that read, “Bye kids, Mrs. Tirado loves you and wishes you the best in life! I have been fired for refusing to give you a 50% for not handing anything in. [heart] Mrs. Tirado.”
Mrs. Tirado left the school after that, but not before snapping a photo of the whiteboard message and shared it to her Facebook. After all, it wasn’t like they were going to fire her for it or anything. Unsurprisingly, the post went viral and was shared hundreds of times. Soon enough, people began to reply to it as well.
Messages came in from parents and teachers, congratulating her on standing her ground. After that, even some of Mrs. Tirado’s eighth-grade students began commenting on her Facebook page as well. They spoke about her inspirational qualities and how they learned responsibility from her lessons.
The Wrong Message
As touching as these student sentiments were, however, they did little to calm Mrs. Tirado’s anger over the policy that had gotten her fired. She believes that giving someone 50 percent for handing in essentially a blank sheet of paper is asinine. She also believes that it sends the wrong message to the students of today.
“It’s absurd to give someone something for nothing and to do that is creating a future that is pretty darn bleak,” she explained. “We’re creating monsters out of our children. We give them too much … people that experience that kind of childhood then that’s what you want, you’re entitled for the rest of your life.”
This idea of an entitled generation is not a new one. It’s something that educators, in particular, have been concerned about for some years now. Giving out half credit for no work is the same as “giving everyone a participation trophy.” It makes children believe that they are entitled to everything even if they do not put in the hard work necessary to succeed in the real world.
Change in Policy
Mrs. Tirado is taking her sensible concerns for this policy to the next level as well, by actively calling for a change in the grading policy at West Gate K-8 School. She believes that if this policy is allowed to continue, it will do nothing to help students in the long run. “I’m arguing the fact that you don’t get something for nothing,” she said.
As for the West Gate K-8 School, they denied that they had any sort of “No Zero” policy. A spokesperson for the school said as much to WPTV. “There is no district or individual school policy prohibiting teachers from recording a grade of zero for work not turned in.” This is of course in direct opposition to what they told Mrs. Tirado.
The former teacher says the policy is outlined in the West Gate student and parent handbook and can easily be proven. The spokesman of course countered by saying that “some classroom teachers and school faculties” discussed the range of points for each grade and came to the conclusion that an F would equal a 50 to 59.” Either way, the policy and the circumstances behind her departure are something that needs to be resolved.