Margaret Simon’s tweet announcing this week’s #DigiLitSunday topic was intriguing. I had seen the link to Cornelius Minor’s new podcast. Thanks to my Voxer group I also know that it is part of a series of podcasts. I also know that Cornelius is a powerful advocate for students and is not afraid to take on difficult topics. But yet, I’ve not had time to actually dig into advocacy.
In order to begin this post, I had to back up and make sure that I clearly understood what advocacy is so I went to the dictionary and this is what I found.
So what’s the big idea about advocacy? Everyone has rights. If you don’t believe you have been treated fairly, you always have the right to ask about ways to remedy the situation. Advocacy is important because it is a way for you to access what you are entitled to and have your individual rights upheld.
Sometimes in the process of advocating for an issue unintended consequences emerge. Sometimes it’s in the tone of voice or even a calmly stated, “Now why would you think that?” A belief that a caring individual would diminish another person’s thoughts or ideas is unfathomable to many, “You must have misunderstood.” Communication is hard. Precise communication is even harder because it takes time to clearly address issues.
In education, I see two basic advocacy issues that emerge in the world of advocacy. Teachers as advocates for students. And the actual teaching so that students can be their own advocates . . . so they can be advocates for themselves for the rest of their lives.
Teachers as Advocates
What does this mean? What does this look like?
Providing just what students need . . .
a listening ear
Believing that answers lie within the students.
What does this look like in a classroom?
Students have voice and choice in what they read, write, and learn about. Students have the opportunity to discuss and disagree about what a text (book, story, painting, song, etc.) says and what the deeper meaning really is. Students can choose to dig into an idea and really STUDY the facets that emerge.
Students do not have arbitrarily 10 page papers assigned. Students do not have to read whole class books at the same time as everyone else in their class. Students do not have to use “one set format” to respond to the text.
Teachers, who are advocates, make decisions based on the needs of their students. Teachers, who are advocates, see things from a student’s perspective. Teachers, who are advocates, take a stand for their students. Teachers, who are advocates, create a positive environment for all the students in the classroom. Teachers, who are advocates, really take the time to listen to their students. Teachers, who are advocates, are role models for their students.
What about self-advocacy?
Teachers and supportive classrooms will provide opportunities for students to develop their voices. Student voices will rise above the clamor. They will not be silenced. They will not be shamed. They will be supported as they grow and learn.
- How to disagree without being disagreeable
- How to consider any action from more than one point of view
- How to develop one’s own sense of identity
- How to create checkpoints to maintain a course of action
- How to develop personal goals including action plans
- How to develop criteria to evaluate one’s progress in meeting goals
- How to share learning
- How to communicate with others
- How to listen
- How to play fair
- How to clean up your own mess
- How to say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody
- How to ask for help
- How to be kind