Let’s talk about self-advocacy. This is a skill that I wish that I had learned as a child. It wasn’t until I was much older before I learned to advocate for myself. I firmly believe that our students need to be able to vocalize what they require to feel regulated, safe, and understood.
Why teach self-advocacy
When our students can self-advocate successfully, they feel heard and empowered. Research tells us that students who can self-advocate have improved self-esteem, more
independence, better social awareness, and advanced communication skills. In addition, students who can self-advocate stay in school longer.
Learning to self-advocate begins with learning about yourself. There are many online surveys, checklists, and questionnaires for students to learn about themselves. What are their
strengths and weaknesses, how do they learn best, what are their interests, etc. All of these tools help to build students’ knowledge about themselves and develop self-awareness.
I like to start the school year with students talking about how they learn best. I ask them about their classes and the classes where they learn the best. I question further to find out what it is about these classes that helps them to learn. I then check out the classrooms myself and see what the classroom environment is like.
What do students say
In my discussions with students, I have learned the following:
- Students want to know the routine. Putting an agenda on the board helps students to focus and self-monitor.
- Students want to feel safe and welcomed. They want a space to sit and have their belongings nearby.
- Students want to move around and have brain breaks.
- Students appreciate teachers who don’t penalize them for losing pencils or having devices that aren’t charged.
self-advocacy leads to independence
Students who are able to convey what they need are more independent and better prepared for adulthood. A student who learns at an early age how to self-advocate will be better equipped to handle academic stresses, social pressures, and employment issues.
What helps me to learn checklist
Using the following chart, students advocate for themselves with school staff and parents.
For additional resources on self-advocacy, check out these products:
If you have questions or suggestions, share them in the comments.