A comment on the case of teacher Lynden Dorval

On June 1, 2012, ‘As It Happens’ on CBC Radio One reported on the case of Lynden Dorval, a teacher from Calgary. Dorval had been suspended by his school board for assessing his senior physics class students in a manor which was contrary to the stated policy of the Calgary School Board.  He was expecting to be fired at the end of the school year after over 30 years of exemplary teaching.  What was the issue?  . Dorval had informed his students that they would receive a mark of ‘0’ for all assignments which were submitted late or which were not submitted at all.  This was made clear to all his students at the beginning of the course. Dorval made himself available to his students before and after school and during lunch so that they would be able to come for help.

Lynden Dorval chose to stand up for his principles and his students and what he knew they are capable of doing.  Kudos to Dorval for having the courage to stand up for his beliefs even if that meant he stood alone.

The argument that giving a student ‘0’ for work not submitted only discourages the student from trying is misguided. Dorval’s students were told at the beginning of the consequences for non-submission of work.  His marks record over the course of each year show that giving a student ‘0’ does not discourage the student.  Rather,Dorval’s students received the message that if they wanted to succeed, they needed to submit the work on time.  By the end of the course, most of the students were meeting this expectation.

Over the course of my 33 years as an educator, I implemented the evaluation policy of the department in the school where I taught – a policy which was clearly explained on the first day of class.  Any assignment that was late lost 10% per day for each day it was late to a maximum of 50%.  Students knew there was a consequence for non-submission of work.  That policy was in place until the Harris government informed teachers that they were no longer allowed to deduct marks for lateness of submission.  And students who were close to passing could come in right after exams to ‘rescue’ their credit by completing extra work which the teacher created so that the student could get a few extra marks to pass.  And then there was the Credit Recovery program where students would complete extra or incomplete or not-handed-in work to fulfill course expectations after the course was finished in order to ‘recover’ the lost credit.

The results of the policy of allowing students to ‘make up’ work not done are negative.  Those students who work to hand in assignments on time learn that there is no benefit to them in doing so.  Why bother when those who don’t do the work on time face no consequences for that choice?  Students learn that their work does not matter since they will always have another chance to ‘get’er done’.  There becomes no value in assessments other than tests and exams.  Assignments mean nothing when the message is that they don’t have to be done.  Post secondary institutions decry student work ethic – students who have come to expect that they can submit work at any time without any academic penalty.  This is not the way post secondary institutions operate.

I remember a student asking me what percentage a particular assignment would be of his final grade.  The implication was that if the assignment wasn’t worth a great enough portion of the final grade, then the student would choose not to do the work.  I did not answer with a number.  What I did tell the student was that it was his choice alone whether to do the work or not.

Another student told me that when he started being paid by an employer, then he would do the work expected.  I responded by telling him that he would not have developed the habits of mind needed to do that – being fully present, giving everything his best effort, completing the work expected by the employer to the employer’s standards and on time.  If he did not do that, he would soon find himself out of a job.

I have always carried with me something that my grade eight teacher told our class: “How you do anything is how you do everything.”    Dorval‘s work with his students – his expectation that they will respect themselves and him by striving to meet his course expectations – drives this point home.

The purpose of education is to teach the whole child – not just course content but ways of being.  Education should help students learn to consider the consequences of their choices before they make them.  One of the most important things that students learn is responsibility.  Students learn that they are responsible for their ultimate success or failure.  Do the work or not – choose and accept what ensues from that choice.  That is what students need to learn even as they are learning specific course content.


About Authentic Vibrations

My life is about learning and personal growth. I was an educator in the public secondary system for over 33 years. I now work with women, individually and in small groups, using words and music, art and language to help them explore their individaul sense of self in ways with are authentically meaningful for each of them. I also facilitate discussions with educators at all stages of their involvement in the teaching profession to help each of us explore the meaning, value and potential of learning and teaching. It is my belief that, in working individually and in collective, we have the power to transform and evolve. In the power of the collectives which we create together is the power to create culture. As a musician, I believe that the arts have the power to change lives. Certification: CODE Model™ Coach WEL-Systems® Institute Affiliate Education: Ed. D (c) (Applied Psychology – Focus on Teaching) University of Toronto M. Ed (Curriculum Development and Design) Queen’s University (1992) B. Ed (Music, English, Elementary Education) University of Toronto (1976) Mus. Bac. (Music Education) University of Toronto (1975) RCM Grade 4 Harmony, Grade 4 History, Grade 9 Voice, Grade 10 Piano Awards: Life Membership, Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation (2009)
This entry was posted in Education Issues and Comments, Resources, Teaching and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to A comment on the case of teacher Lynden Dorval

  1. Caroline says:

    cool presentation shared. keep it up.http://www.silencioso.org

  2. Clem says:

    your concept is right. i think this way too. thanks for explaining it well.http://www.impressorakyocera.com

  3. Candela says:

    thanks for sharing with such material!http://www.arcodigital.com

  4. Erna says:

    everything is very open and very clear explanation of issues. it contains truly information. your website is very useful. thanks for sharing. looking forward to more!http://www.lixeiraplastica.com

  5. Albina says:

    i always say, simple is best and your website demonstrates it so well. congratulations for the good work.http://www.bambozzi.org

  6. Aparecida says:

    i wanted to thank you for this great read!! i am definitely enjoying every little bit of it i have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post. thanks for all.http://www.mscmalta.com

  7. Cirlei says:

    it’s really interesting to read this post, i read it completely now i interested to know more about it so hope you may add more information in your next post. i will enjoy that too.http://www.multifuncionalhp.net

  8. Ariadna says:

    that’s very interesting, i have shared it with my friends.http://www.limparfossa.com

  9. Berenice says:

    very interesting website indeed.http://www.xcalibar.com

  10. Elisabeth says:

    i’m glad i have seen this website. and i just want to thank you for taking time to write for us. cheers.http://www.kvforum.net

  11. Daphne says:

    very interesting article for read, i like it.http://www.videofine.com

  12. Ennya says:

    the effort you made to write this article is the proof of how you like to help us, thanks for all.http://www.etiquetadora.org

  13. Ernesta says:

    i don’t know how you can write so well, your articles are excellent.http://www.xcalibar.com

  14. Creusa says:

    the post is really very interesting and informative…http://www.agenciadempregos.com

  15. Adalina says:

    i love reading through your blog, thank you for sharing with us.http://www.casaemail.com.br

  16. Daouane says:

    this content is extremely important to me, i’ve learnt a lot here.http://www.acertemail.com

  17. Eduardo says:

    great blog! the information you provide is quiet helpful, why i was not able to find it earlier. anyways i’ve subscribed to your feeds, keep the good work up.http://www.maladiretasegmentada.com.br

  18. Aneita says:

    the layout of the site is awesome, this will attract many newbie…keep it up.http://www.acertemail.com

  19. Celma says:

    information was very great to read.http://www.acertemail.com

  20. Derci says:

    you said it right, thanks for all the reliable informationhttp://www.ecadastro.com.br

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s