I'd Rather Take a Zero for Doing Nothing than Try and Fail

@DWDavis (10031)
Pikeville, North Carolina
February 16, 2017 3:56pm CST
I've run into the occasional student in the past who took this attitude toward school. In a bad year there might be two in a class. This year is something else. In my homeroom alone there are at least five and possibly more for whom this philosophy describes how they approach school. On my team, there are at least a dozen. Try as we might, we cannot seem to shake them of this notion. Even when the parents get involved, the students sudden dedication to trying harder evaporates quickly. Somehow, these students have decided that getting a zero for not doing the work is less embarrassing than doing the work and getting a bad grade. They don't seem able to connect getting the zeroes to failing the class, and likely repeating the grade. What makes a person decide that not trying and failing completely is preferable to trying and passing with a low grade?
22 people like this
25 responses
@Corbin5 (54671)
• United States
16 Feb
I suppose they can save face by not trying. They can say, "I could have gotten a good grade if I wanted to." If they do not try, the possibility of others knowing of their poor performance will not occur. If they try and do not do well, the fault is on them and all will know they do not measure up.
4 people like this
@DWDavis (10031)
• Pikeville, North Carolina
17 Feb
And when they won't do, we are told to give them alternate assignments they might have a better chance of successfully completing. Then they won't do that either.
1 person likes this
@paigea (18276)
• Canada
17 Feb
@Corbin5 I think you hit the nail on the head. I even remember classmates with that attitude back in my school days.
2 people like this
@teamfreak16 (24361)
• Manitou Springs, Colorado
16 Feb
A very rude awakening is on the way.
4 people like this
@DWDavis (10031)
• Pikeville, North Carolina
17 Feb
Some of them have been told they would be retained in the past, but never have been, and are greatly surprised when it actually happens.
2 people like this
• United States
16 Feb
I think I had that same attitude - I truly hated school and everything it represented. Pretty bad when your father was a a prof and in admin. at Rutgers at the time LOL!
2 people like this
@DWDavis (10031)
• Pikeville, North Carolina
17 Feb
My second grade teacher nearly turned me into one of those kids who would always hate school and learning. Fortunately, my fifth grade teacher rekindled my interest in math and my 7th grade language arts teacher lit my passion for writing.
• United States
17 Feb
@DWDavis I was fine until public high school.
1 person likes this
• United States
16 Feb
Wow that sounds really bad, a really bad attitude. I guess it might be there are no consequences for not trying? Besides getting a zero. Sounds like nothing is getting thru to them. Time to bring back the old ways lol
2 people like this
@DWDavis (10031)
• Pikeville, North Carolina
17 Feb
In the old days, kids that dropped out at 16 because school wasn't for them could go to work in factories and on farms, become apprentices to tradesmen, and such. Those options are no longer available. Nowadays, guys that don't succeed in school have few options outside of crime, and the girls get pregnant and go on the dole.
1 person likes this
• United States
17 Feb
@DWDavis That is right, no longer are those options available where you could go into a trade or what have you instead of school.
1 person likes this
@JohnRoberts (25170)
• Los Angeles, California
16 Feb
They are about to learn a life lesson. Our nanny state society has taught you don't have to try or do anything because the check's in the mail. These kids won't be equipped for the real working world.
2 people like this
@DWDavis (10031)
• Pikeville, North Carolina
17 Feb
I point this out to the higher ups all the time, and get told I'm the one who doesn't understand the real world. Then I remind them that I worked in the real world for twenty some years before becoming a teacher and that shuts them up, but doesn't change their minds.
1 person likes this
@JudyEv (83399)
• Bunbury, Australia
16 Feb
I don't have any answers except that, if they are talking among themselves, maybe the idea is catching. Our older son only ever did enough work to scrape through with a pass. We couldn't convince him otherwise either.
2 people like this
@DWDavis (10031)
• Pikeville, North Carolina
17 Feb
It is a common problem with students from the lowest socio-economic strata. They've grown up with nothing and don't or won't believe that education can help them rise out of that.
1 person likes this
@TRBRocks420 (48209)
• Banks, Oregon
16 Feb
My problem in high school is I just didn't care and, could only think of getting back home, because school wasn't a good experience for me, now that I am out I love to learn though and, when I went back to school online had no problem with the subjects except math. I am still terrible at it.
2 people like this
@DWDavis (10031)
• Pikeville, North Carolina
17 Feb
You need a teacher who can make math relevant to you and show it to you in a context you can find it useful in.
1 person likes this
@shaggin (23433)
• United States
16 Feb
To me it seems that they are so embarrassed of doing something wrong that they would rather not try at all. I was always worried when I was in school that I might get the wrong answer so out of fear of being embarrassed I would never raise my hand.
1 person likes this
@DWDavis (10031)
• Pikeville, North Carolina
17 Feb
I often don't ask for a show of hands. I pick them out randomly to answer questions. If they don't want to answer, or cannot answer, I make them decide who gets to try next.
@shaggin (23433)
• United States
17 Feb
@DWDavis That is interesting I never had any teacher do it that way. I had one teacher who was rotten and if so did not know an answer (I was horrible at this subject and have a very bad memory) the teacher would call me up in front of the class and tell me how dumb I was and make me cry in front of everyone. I hated that teacher and every time I walk across the bridge in town and see the dedication plaque on it with his name it sickness me. He would tell us how we were stupid and we should be hit in the forehead like they do with mules.
2 people like this
@DWDavis (10031)
• Pikeville, North Carolina
17 Feb
@shaggin What a horrible teacher! I work hard to help every student find some aspect of the subject they are good at, and build from there.
2 people like this
• Preston, England
17 Feb
sad state of affairs - i'd rather try and at least see how far i'd get
1 person likes this
@DWDavis (10031)
• Pikeville, North Carolina
18 Feb
I gave a test today, and not one of them gave up without at least giving it a try. It may be because our Principal made the rounds this morning and talked to each class.
1 person likes this
• Preston, England
18 Feb
@DWDavis hope some of them did ok in the test or get future chances if they need them
1 person likes this
@allknowing (52725)
• India
17 Feb
There is some logic in their thinking. No one will point a finger which would have happened if they failed. Why did I not think of this approach while at school (lol)
1 person likes this
@DWDavis (10031)
• Pikeville, North Carolina
17 Feb
The problem comes when their parents see their progress reports and want to know about all the zeroes. The kids tell their parents they did the work and don't know why they have zeroes. I once had a student tell his mother that I threw away all his work and gave him zeroes because I didn't like him. Thankfully, the mother wasn't that gullible.
2 people like this
@allknowing (52725)
• India
17 Feb
@DWDavis I never thought a student would stoop so low. Parents would know their kids I suppose.
1 person likes this
@Deepizzaguy (4846)
• Lake Charles, Louisiana
17 Feb
I have no idea why any student has the attitude of not making an effort to try to learn as subject that seems difficult to master at first. They need to learn that "Success is not forever and failure is not fatal."
1 person likes this
@DWDavis (10031)
• Pikeville, North Carolina
17 Feb
I think some of them see taking the zero as a continuation of the escaping responsibility they've been taught since birth, both at momma's knee and by an overly paternalistic government.
1 person likes this
• Lake Charles, Louisiana
17 Feb
@DWDavis You are correct. I did flunk writing in high school but I continued to learn from my errors later on in life.
1 person likes this
@paigea (18276)
• Canada
17 Feb
My daughter had a habit of getting discouraged and shoving assignments away somewhere and not handing them in. During one meeting, the teacher got her to dig out what ever she could find in her desk, back pack, locker. He entered all the partial marks (that were zeros) into the computer and showed her that a few 20% papers did a lot less damage to her grade than zeros. Excel at what you can and at least try the rest. It did have an impact on her that day. Yes, I, a teacher, raised one of these unmotivated students.
1 person likes this
@DWDavis (10031)
• Pikeville, North Carolina
17 Feb
I had a student a couple years ago who would finish his assignments and then stuff them in his backpack instead of turning them in. When I called mom about his missing work, she found them all, completed, and mostly correct, crumpled up in his pack. When we asked him why, he told us the other boys would pick on him outside the classroom for being too smart and getting good grades. Nothing upsets me like a smart kid being dragged down by jealous peers who don't want to do the work.
@paigea (18276)
• Canada
17 Feb
@DWDavis Oh, that is so unfortunate!
1 person likes this
@Drosophila (16956)
• Ireland
17 Feb
I think these students are afraid of failure, because failure will make them feel worthless. This stems from lack of security, love, and support. I don't think society or life is to blame. I think they are just isolated and scared children trying to find their way into adulthood. I think deeper communication and level of support is needed here.
1 person likes this
@DWDavis (10031)
• Pikeville, North Carolina
17 Feb
I offer a lot of encouragement and as much support as I can. I walk around my class and try to find something positive to say about the effort each student is making. But there is only one of me, and a hundred of them in four classes. I end each day emotionally exhausted from trying to give so many kids the love and support they are lacking in other parts of their lives.
1 person likes this
@Drosophila (16956)
• Ireland
17 Feb
@DWDavis absolutely! You're doing a great job already. To be honest we all have to go through this phase to get to adulthood. There's only so much people can do for us, but we have to walk the rest of the way ourselves. Though, I do think at the bottom of every destructive or motiveless child is one desperate for love. I pray they will find that love and make the transition
1 person likes this
@Platespinner (14694)
• Winston Salem, North Carolina
16 Feb
That's rather sad. I've tried to teach my children that it is better to try and fail abysmally than it is to never have tried at all...not that they've always paid attention .
1 person likes this
@DWDavis (10031)
• Pikeville, North Carolina
17 Feb
I think these kids have been told too often that they can't, that now they won't. I try to convince them differently.
1 person likes this
• Winston Salem, North Carolina
17 Feb
@DWDavis I don't envy you your job!
1 person likes this
@katsmeow1213 (28274)
• United States
16 Feb
No idea, you'd have to ask them! I was your typical straight A student.. and most of my kids are too. My oldest on the other hand was the lazy type. He had the brains, he just couldn't be bothered, even when he got to a point where he wasn't allowed to play sports anymore because he was failing. He attended summer school... oh and failed summer school also! It wasn't until 11th grade when he realized he was doubling up on all his classes for both junior and senior year in order to graduate, and that if he failed a single class he wouldn't graduate on time, that he finally buckled down. And guess what? He got 90's those last 2 years!
1 person likes this
@DWDavis (10031)
• Pikeville, North Carolina
17 Feb
Wasn't it frustrating knowing he could do, and chose not to?
• United States
17 Feb
@DWDavis Extremely! But somewhere in the high school years I basically just quit fighting him on it. I spent most of his life lecturing, and trying to get him to understand the importance of good grades and getting into college and getting a good job.. and he didn't want to listen. So it got to a point where I just sat back and figured it's up to him now and if this is the choice he wants to make, he's the one who will have to live with it. He's now almost 20, didn't finish a single semester at college, and works at Dunkin Donuts. He did move out and is paying his bills.. so he's got that going for him. He's a good, responsible young man.. and he talks about going back to college but doesn't know yet what for..
1 person likes this
@LoriAMoore (11284)
• Louisville, Kentucky
18 Feb
What the hell is wrong with kids today?
1 person likes this
@DWDavis (10031)
• Pikeville, North Carolina
18 Feb
The kids showing this attitude have been raised by single moms living in poverty and have learned to expect nothing from life. By the time they get to school it is practically written into their DNA that they are nothing and never will amount to anything. We work hard to change that attitude, but we're fighting their history, family, community and culture.
@missjackie (1327)
• Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
17 Feb
I'm a college student. I have seen a few other students like that as well. My own personal philosophy is this: If I tried and failed, it's not that I'm stupid for not passing. It's because I haven't tried hard enough. That, when the next time comes around, I have to apply what I learned the last time and try harder the next time. I usually go back to my first fail and try to see where I went wrong. With that, I try to correct myself and try harder the 2nd time around. That's just me. Other students who have the "0" attitude just seems lazy to me.
1 person likes this
@DWDavis (10031)
• Pikeville, North Carolina
17 Feb
You have an excellent attitude and approach. My sons are that way. They see a failure as a challenge and opportunity to improve. They excelled in college, and I'm sure you will, too.
1 person likes this
@Tampa_girl7 (24113)
• United States
17 Feb
It is a bizarre attitude.
1 person likes this
• Austin, Texas
17 Feb
I knew a person who said they wouldn't ask a question if they thought the person would answer “No”. I always thought that was stupid. Instead of telling them they were being stupid or silly, if I was there I'd ask! Eh! That's what friends are for. Hoping they'd see that I survived getting a "No" for an answer.
1 person likes this
@LadyDuck (90719)
• Switzerland
17 Feb
This is a very bad attitude, we always should try and if we fail at least we can say we did our best.
1 person likes this