I am not a big fan of buzzwords… unless I invent them. But this year at BTSN, I did steal one that I have been hearing quite a bit of ¬†lately. And for me, it’s from sort of an unlikely source. Special ed. To tell you the truth, I don’t even know if we’re supposed to say that any more, or if it is now officially “Resource.” Anyway…

The phrase I used was “self advocate.”

During all my years of schoolin’, it pretty much went without saying that it was you and the school. You handled things yourself. Mom didn’t call the office except to say you were sick or going on vacation. You didn’t tell Dad about the moron bugging you in English. You bugged right back. Or you dealt with it somehow. If Sr. Enda gave you an unfair grade, you hounded her about it or made her at least explain it until she called you “bold as brass” but remembered next time that you cared enough about your own grade to hound her about it. You didn’t get Mom to call her to change it. (Sr. Enda would have scoffed at her in Gaelic.) You got caught, you took the pun and you didn’t whine to Mom about how unfair it was. Or maybe you did, but Mom ignored your protests and Dad said you probably got what you deserved or even added on to it.

It was assumed that you were supposed to take care of bidness, and if you didn’t, it wasn’t anybody’s fault but yours. “Self advocating” didn’t need a name because that’s just what you did. I guess your mileage may have varied, but I used to laugh when I first heard the phrase. Well, duh. If you ain’t advocating for yourself, who will?

These days it turns out, everybody and your mom. Everybody except you.

(Oh, where have all the grade grubbers and obsessive, daily grade checkers gone? Hounding me the next day because I only entered 6 of their 7 extra credit points for the week? I almost miss them. At least they were taking care of their own bidness, instead of,¬†“My mom says…”)

So at BTSN I tried to emphasize this. I actually used the words self advocate. I said that I try to give each kid a personal drive-by almost every day (ok at least three days/week),

“…so they all have an opportunity to ask about whatever they need one-on-one. ‘I don’t get this’ or ‘Is this how you do vocab?’ and so on. If they don’t ask, I gotta figure they know what they’re doing or don’t care. ”

They all nodded. Uh huh.

But now the e-mails are flowing.

“Jimmy has never had less than an A, and he says he’s turned everything in, but it says on Powerschool…”

Have Jimmy come and see me at break.

“I would like to know what Suzie needs to do to bring her grade up…”

Has she talked to me about this? This is the first I have heard. Have Suzie come see me.

“I remember signing KBAR reading sheets for Charles, but it shows zero in Powerschool…”

Did he record his score on the test paper on Friday? He knows I put zero if that space is left blank. I think is the third time he’s “forgotten.” Have him come show me his notebook tomorrow…”

“Sylvia doesn’t understand the assignment. Can you explain it to me so I can help her with it?”

Ummm. Did she say anything about this when I went by to check her vocab yesterday? Did she raise her hand when I asked if there were any questions? Have her come see me before school tomorrow.

I answered so many emails like that the other day that I put “self advocate” onto the virtual clipboard for easy pasting.