Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Teaching Students to Speak Out

speakIn Leaders today and tomorrow from Generation YES Blog, Sylvia Martinez states,

“Great leadership is inclusive leadership, yet the largest stakeholder group in schools is often forgotten — students.”

This is so important and I think so many adults forget this. What about the students? Why are they often times forgotten or ignored?

Many times I meet with students and ask them questions like:
1. What do you think?
2. What works for you?
3. How can we solve this problem?

Most of the time, I am given a blank stare and no answers. They are either stunned that I would even ask them for input or they are afraid to give their input.

I have had students tell me that no one has ever asked them this or that they believe that no one really cares. Even if they give the answers, they feel that no one really listens to them.

How many times has adults said the same thing about their administration? Or even about the government? Have these students just grown into adults and remain the same silent stakeholders?

I need to teach my students to speak out. I need to teach them to ask questions and question things that they don’t understand or believe. I need them to find their voices.

Many times my students don’t even know the questions they should ask. By modeling, I can show them how to come up with the questions and how to ask them in appropriate ways.

I need to show my students how to be proactive without appearing aggressive. They need to understand and believe that they should have a say in their future and things that will affect them.

I started by explaining the IEP process to my students and then explaining their individual IEP. By encouraging them to run their own IEP meetings, I am allowing them to have some control. I am giving them opportunities to talk and explain why they feel things are important to them. They are able to share things they thing will work for them. Sometimes we have to trust them by letting them have control over some of the things that affect them.

They need to find out what they believe in and why. When they see injustices or have someone question their values, they need to be able to speak out. They need to defend their beliefs and their rights when necessary. This will be helpful if they are ever faced with bullying. By speaking out, they will become stronger individuals, not in physical strength but in mind.

I need to teach my students self advocacy. They need this not only in the classroom, and in the workplace but in every aspect of their lives.

How do you teach your students to speak out? Please share.

Image: 'Speak out!'

1 comment:

Ian Anderson said...

Modeling is the way, for sure. The problem I see at the middle school level is not so much that students don't speak, it's that they do it in an inappropriate way. Either that, or they don't really have anything to speak out about and they complain anyway.

I suppose teaching students when to speak out is just as important as teaching them how.