Recently I participated in an outstanding Twitter chat (#satchat) about advocating for students. It's such an important topic. Almost every teacher is successful with the top tier students. The top students seem to learn almost in spite of the teacher—good, bad, or indifferent. But to reach students who have significant struggles, at school or home or both, requires a teacher who is willing to be an advocate.
Educators have the opportunity to influence and support students who need a helping hand. We can lend them our strength for a time and help them find the strength within themselves to carry forward.
This excerpt from Katy Ridnouer's book Everyday Engagement summarizes what it means to be an advocate as an educator:
An advocate is a person who supports or promotes the interests of another, and that is what a teacher is doing when he or she works to engage students and their parents as partners in a positive, learning-focused classroom community. An advocate is also one who promotes a cause, and I believe every teacher must be an advocate for student and parent engagement in learning, and for learning in general. They must promote it actively; they must embed these efforts into their classroom practice on an everyday basis.So based on these thoughts and reflection from the recent Twitter chat, I am suggesting 7 steps to be a better advocate for students.
1. Be Present
Every student needs to know you will be there for them and move closer to their messy situations and not push them away. Students need our unconditional love.
Get to know your students. Connect with them. Know them well enough to see when something's not right. Make the person in front of you feel more important than the content you teach. Ask how things are going and how you can help.
Take the time to really listen. You don't need all the answers. And you don't need a degree in school counseling to hear what your students are saying.
Listen to understand. Try to see things from the student's perspective. You can't be an effective advocate if you don't really try to feel what they're feeling and see it like they are seeing it.
5. Speak Up
Be the voice for the one who is overlooked, underserved, or mistreated. Don't just look the other way. Say something.
6. Take Action
Words are powerful but actions speak louder. Do something to show your support. Reach out. Every action you take to help a child builds bridges to a better future.
7. Always Encourage
Some situations may feel hopeless. We can't fix every problem. But we can always provide encouragement. We can say something positive. We can show how much we care. The kind words of a teacher can restore hope to a kid who is feeling lost and all alone.
When we become wise and caring advocates for students, we are developing young people who someday will be able to better advocate for themselves.
Question: How are you advocating for your students? I want to hear from you. Share your ideas by leaving a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.