Autonomy is NOT for the weak of spirit.

In the final months of 2015 and beginning 2016, I learned how the word autonomy is often carelessly substituted for it’s  more distant cousin, tenure.  In the State of Iowa, educators at the K-12 level determined the use of the word autonomy  was a great way to cover many aspects of teacher professionalism, including stagnation.  I am sure autonomy was meant to reward teachers for persistent professional development and changes in their professional practice in much the way tenure is handed out. The problem is tenure and autonomy do not mean the same thing, do not convey the same entitlements and both are not a singular, crowning achievement. Both words are based upon concepts of good judgement,  efficacy and use of prudent thought- especially in the realm of education.  Autonomy does not mean ‘right to self govern’ by caveat and it is not an excuse for poor teaching practices.

Autonomy has now been bandied about in a number of  meetings I have attended at the bequest of parents for students who fall in the category of being entitled to a 504 (http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/section-504-2/ ) or IEP (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Individualized_Education_Program).   It is the practice of misusing the term autonomy which has become an anathema to the education process. I have reason to believe administrators at the school, district, county and state levels inherently know the mis-appropriation of the word and yet have nothing else to use to cover what does not happen in the classroom.

Although I understood the context of how autonomy was being used, it took multiple school districts and situations for me to determine the consistency of the application of the word to get around students with different needs. The common practice  in Iowa seems to be identifying a behavioral problem instead of the learning issue/disability preventing the student from succeeding.  While it is disturbing to see so many students not receive appropriate services and disheartening to see it covered up by selective use of vocabulary, it does not change the fact – Iowa can and should do better.

In my brief experience(s) with local schools and districts, I have witnessed a pretty firm degree of  intractability and disengagement from teachers and administration. I can not help but wonder how things could be different if these self same people decided to work with students and parents.  I need to introduce the word fulcrum . Fulcrum is much more useful and seems to actually change situations.

 

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We all need a BOOST UP now and again!

Completely by accident, while looking at news items, I stumbled upon:     http://www.boostup.org/en  – motivate,  volunteer, inspire.  My first thought was to find out how they did the math to calculate the drop out rate as it seemed so incredibly high in many respects.  I then started going through each section of the website.  What I began to realize is the web site is about facts. It was not asking for money as is the case with Studentsfirst.org. The website did not condemn teachers, administrators, budget cuts, politicians…..it merely presented information.  I began to feel that this website spoke to both my heart and mind because it bypassed the clap trap of why one should care, do something about the drop out rate, etc. and made it imperative WE do something.

While we may each have different political views, we all share the common goal:   an educated populace is one which is more likely to create GDP, more likely to have a healthy populace, less likely to have war and all the other good things which going along with a well-functioning democracy.

So, as the budget for education is getting snipped at the edges or seriously going to the chop shop as it is in California, instead of complaining-DO SOMETHING!  Volunteering never hurt anyone and in this case it seems pretty direct, no middle person to ‘administrate’ and run up costs.  Boost Up some students in your area and boost up how you feel about yourself.