This week we are asking “what must we do to transform schools into places of authentic, democratic learning?” From this we will compile are “Must Do’s List.”
I brought this question to my mentor and his answer has stuck with me, “autonomy.” I think Aaron will like this idea as he fends off his trend-crazy collaborative peers with his prized copy of the U.S. Constitution.
This idea of autonomy has many applications. First of all, it necessitates another must-do. We must have competent teachers in the classroom. Let’s talk about what a competent teacher is next week perhaps? I will just say to have this condition met we need to move a little bit further along in our cultural reform, because having teachers who want to use the new Texas U.S. History books, scares me. And if autonomy is granted than these teachers can do just as they like, just as I can do what I like. So in a way I am shooting my suggestion in the foot, but let’s forget that for a moment.
Okay, let’s imagine the classroom is in responsible hands, all that we must-do is trust the teacher! How about that! Alright my work here is done, have a good night everyone, please send checks to…
Okay, seriously, throw this political accountability rhetoric in the compost bin along with the shredded scan-tron sheets you intended to use as your measure. If there is a mature, sane person in charge of guiding and assessing student’s learning and growth then let them be!
Paula has detailed (I don’t remember exactly where to provide the link-sorry), she can very accurately judge how her students will do on standardized tests because she knows her students so well. When this level of relationship is had between teacher and student, there is no need for standardized tests. What there is the need for is trusting teachers and providing them atmospheres where they can successfully do their job! This is called autonomy.
Moreover, teachers are much more than content deliverers and assessment monkeys, they are truly artists, when given the space to be. With autonomy our artisan teachers will craft the structures needed to provide their students authentic and democratic learning experiences. They won’t all look the same, they are not supposed to.
I promise that teachers will be passionate about their jobs, less worried about the 6 1/2 hours a day they are signed up to work, and enjoy those hours a heck of a lot more. Equally if not more importantly students will be more engaged and gaining the trans-disciplinary skills needed to direct their own learning for a lifetime. The results will be less classroom management issues, lower dropout rates, less addiction and mental health issues (particularly less depression and anxiety), and a generation of people armed to renew our culture.
By extending autonomy to our students, allowing them opportunities to discover and explore their passions, we will be upholding Howard Thurman’s creed:
Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.