One of the most common statements I hear these days in education is that a child needs to advocate for himself/herself. As an educator, it sounds great. Having students speak up for themselves - sure, why not?
So I looked it up. Here is what Google tells me: Being your own advocate means that you ask for what you need while respecting the needs of others. For example, if you are at a store and a clerk ignores you, ask in a polite way to be served. Self-advocacy is asking for what you need in a direct, respectful manner.
As an educator and parent, this is absolutely what I want my children to do; self-advocate. And as an educator and parent, I'd like to speak for these children. Please, please understand that self-advocacy will look differently for each child. Just as with everything in education, self-advocacy will be personalized to the child.
Extroverted children may walk right up to you, say or ask for what they want, and be just fine doing it. Face-to-face conversations may be easy for them. Raising their hand in class and answering questions comes natural. Group work, yes please! Presentations in front of the class, why not?
Now, let's take a look at introverted or shy children. What would self-advocacy look like for them? Have you ever thought about this? What about those students with anxiety disorders? Does this idea of self-advocacy go against every part of this child's being? Does it physically make them ill to have this conversation?
I'm a mom of a child with an anxiety disorder. One day, after discussing my child's anxiety disorder, shyness, and introverted manner; I was told that he just needed to advocate for himself during class and with his teachers. My first thoughts were, "What? Did you just hear what we discussed during this meeting?". Then, I stopped and thought. Yes, he can self-advocate, but it will look differently.
So, as educators, let's talk about what self-advocacy might look like for those "shy" kids:
- emailing you about a missing assignment, misunderstanding, or need
- writing a quick note on an assignment or next to a test question
- asking/emailing to meet after school or before school with you
- asking/emailing for copies of notes or slide shows
I'm not saying that we shouldn't teach our children to self-advocate. I'm only wanting to remind all educators that self-advocacy, like everything in education, must be personalized to students. Please keep this in mind when working with our precious children. YOU mean so much to them!
I'd love to hear how you have seen or empowered students to self-advocate. Leave me a comment!