In a treatment setting, school is often the laboratory for practicing skills learned in therapy. One such skill, self advocacy, has both emotional and academic implications. In this blog InnerChange academic director, Kathrine Whittekiend, M.Ed., discusses the importance of self advocacy skills for student success in and out of the classroom.
Many girls come to us afraid to make a mistake, afraid to ask for help. These girls often have histories of going along with the crowd and, therefore, not self-advocating. So we’re explicit about teaching self advocacy. We name it and encourage it as a skill to master: “you need to be a self-advocate. How can you stick up for yourself in this situation?” The classroom is a natural place for practicing this skill; a skill that will impact a girl’s future success in college, the workplace, and even personal relationships.
The context for fostering self advocacy is creating a low affective filter classroom where it’s okay to make a mistake. Implementing Stephen Krashen’s low affective filter approach helps us foster a sense of safety. This allows girls who would normally be embarrassed or afraid to speak up the opportunity to safely discover (and use) their voice. We encourage students to ask questions and seek help, both of which are critical skills for learning and job success.
We offer psycho-educational groups where we teach girls explicitly about various aspects of learning, thinking, processing, and academic success. For instance, I just finished a group with the girls on emotional intelligence. I present the material and allow the girls time to discuss and to process the material together so that they can see its relevance to their own experiences, past, present, and future.
We teach about learning styles, the difference between reasoning and logic, and other topics so that these girls can “learn how to learn.” These meta-cognitive approaches are critical for demystifying the learning process and cultivating self advocacy.
We succeed in getting our students caught up or ahead academically close to 100% of the time. With occasional exceptions, students return to their home district or school right on target or ahead of their peers. Most return to their home district or school right on target or ahead of their peers. By learning self advocacy and developing confidence, we’re ensuring that this success can continue long term. We also work with our students to advocate for the right classroom circumstances upon return home. While one student might thrive in a very tactile, experiential setting, another might perform better in a tradition setting but with small class sizes. By getting to know themselves so well on so many levels and by developing a confident voice, our students graduate better equipped to pursue the right circumstances for their own continued success. That’s self advocacy.
Kathrine Whittekiend, M.Ed., has been an educator in traditional and therapeutic settings for nearly 40 years. An expert in “whole-child” education, Ms. Whittekiend is a licensed school administrator and is certified to teach English, ESL, German, Geology, and reading. She can be reached at [email protected].