How can we give our students personalized learning experience? Today this is one question that troubles the educators and parents alike. Let me tell you the story of one of my students. Paul is a student in my higher secondary class. He is an extraordinary student with good speaking and writing skills. One day he came up to me with a suggestion. He told me “Ma’am, I don’t think our syllabus is adequate enough to cater to the needs of students who are going out and in great need of using the English language in the real world”. He suggested me to start a class book club where students can read and experience good books and develop their language through discussions and debates. As a teacher, it was a new experience for me. A Student realizing his needs and taking the responsibility to find a way to address that need was a new awakening for me and at that moment I understood the need of giving the students the freedom; at least in the English class, to become the advocates of their own education. I implemented Paul’s suggestion in the class that day itself and I was able to see the result in the second week itself.
Self-advocacy is one character trait we must nurture in our children. Understanding specific needs and speaking up for those needs are very important today. To experience individualized learning students must communicate their needs and difficulties to the educators. Instead of parents being the advocate of everything concerning their children, students should speak for themselves and it’s going to help them both academically and socially. Self-advocacy skills will enable children to be independent and confident rather than feeling powerless and dependent on others.
Today the entire education system is on the path of change. The traditional system of learning is replaced by a system where life skills and job-oriented are given more importance. In this system, students are prepared for a career from the budding stage itself. So here the students have to take up a more responsible position for their own education and skill acquisition. It’s not rote learning but the ability to think critically will help us in the long run. Self-advocacy comes from this critical thinking ability, where students analyses and empower themselves through need analysis and communicating those needs to the teachers and educators. Through this, the kids will have a feeling that they own the decision and they will be responsible enough to do justice to that decision.
My student Paul was an exceptional case. How many students in our current education system will come up with such an idea? Even if they form the ideas in their minds, how many of them have the courage and determination to present them in front of the authorities. To instill the courage to advocate themselves, we the educators must follow a student-centered approach. The students should feel the need to study the topic by relating the situation to their real life. I still remember during my school days I was not aware of the purpose of learning some of the topics from mathematics. The uses and applications of topics like integration and differentiation are still a mystery to me. The first step towards enabling our children in vocalizing would be recognizing them. Educators and parents must formulate multiple strategies to encourage self-advocacy at home and classroom since children sometimes would be shy to ask for something in front of the entire class. We must make them understand self-advocacy is all about voicing their needs and finding ways to fulfill those needs with or without another person’s help.
Self-advocacy is not an easy skill to learn. It can be developed only through practice. The life skills and soft skills have become an essential component in the everyday life of each child, teenager, and adult to live and prosper in the present and future society. The necessity for vocational and skill-oriented education is on the rise. Parents and teachers should understand the relevance of voicing one’s own opinions and standing up for what they believe in is of utmost importance hence promote self-advocacy and self-discovery among your students. Let them learn and grow fit to be the future citizen of this advanced world.