By: Dr. Gregory Betts
Stability and certainty are not always available for students when they enter the 21st Century work force and this trend does not seem to be going away. Long gone are the days of retiring with a gold watch, 30 plus years of experience and a healthy pension. In the educational world, educators often talk about preparing kids for jobs that aren’t even created yet. What does that really mean? It means, I can work hard (Grit), see opportunities for growth (Mindset), foster courage and vulnerability (Daring Greatly) and have a high hope mindset (Making Hope Happen). This ultimately leads to individuals being able to successfully self advocate and create confidence with success. Allowing students to become independent and self-advocates is a critical step in preparing them for school, post secondary education, and their future careers. Molding a life long learning mindset in students and creating learning opportunities that reinforce this are one of the great joys of being an educator. It is a life long learning mindset that drives me to conclude this concept is more important than ever to establish with our students and equip our teachers with advocacy skills as we continue to watch an uncertain future reveal its many surprises before us.
As a former elementary teacher and high school football and track coach, I have worked with students with physical and academic disabilities, bright students who could not handle failure, talented athletes who did not work hard, and adults who always saw the future as bleak. Students and adults who were/are successful had many of the positive psychology characteristics from the books referenced above that led to self advocacy skills. The ability to self-advocate always intrigued me because it took hard work, a growth and hope mindset, and with the capacity to bounce back from failure.
Educators have many roles and responsibilities highlighted by instructing students on the indicators and outcomes set forth by their school. Teachers are also simultaneously supporting the whole child by incorporating and modeling lessons about character, responsibility, respect, and self-advocacy. Friend (2012) states that “self-advocacy is an important part of self-determination, or the ability to make decisions and direct behavior so that the desired goals are achieved (Holverstott, 2005).” If self advocating truly can make a positive impact, then we must be teaching all students that they can properly handle adverse situations, clearly communicate to others, and ask for help when needed. In order to encourage students to be self-advocates, they need to gain information, store and retrieve information, express information, self-advocate, and manage time (Including Students with Special Needs, 2012). We need self-advocating students who are able to achieve their own goals, are self-determined, and able to succeed when faced with adversity. As educators we can help foster and mold self advocating students by:
- Teaching students how to ask for help
- Creating opportunities to develop time management
- Teaching students how to self-monitor (emotion, time, environment)
- Creating responsibilities and allowing students to complete the task
- Creating role play situations that might be difficult (create a social story)
- Allowing failure and praising hard work (this means don’t always rescue)
- Allowing voice and choice in the classroom
- Knowing your students and supporting their interests
- Allowing natural consequences and having the students problem solve the solution
- Developing critical thinking and problem solving skills
1. Brown, B. (2012). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. New York, NY: Gotham Books.
2. Duckworth, A. (2016). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance.
3. Dweck, Carol S.. (2008) Mindset :the new psychology of success New York : Ballantine Books
4. Friend, M. & Bursuck, W.D. (2012). Including students with special needs: A practical guide for classroom teachers, (6th edition). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education.
5. Hensley, P. (2016). Teaching Self-Advocacy in the Special Ed Classroom. Retrieved March 01, 2016, from http://teaching.monster.com/benefits/articles/4561-teaching-self-advocacy-in-the-special-ed-classroom
6. Self-Advocacy. (n.d.). Retrieved March 1, 2017, from https://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/tool-kits/transition-tool-kit/self-advocacy
Lee, A. (2014). The importance of self-advocacy for kids with learning and attention issues. Understood.