Encouraging Self-Advocacy in Your Girl

Beth Creswell Wilson '96
At GPS, our mission and values provide an integral framework that supports every interaction with our students. We believe that in addition to providing students robust and engaging academics and girl-centered social-emotional support, we should also provide an environment that encourages girls to live out the values that will help them meaningfully contribute to the betterment of their families and communities. Each girl learns to focus on who she will become as much as what she will accomplish.

One of the many skills the adults at school and at home help our girls build at GPS is self-advocacy—communicating their needs to others. For some girls, identifying what will help them, seeking out those who can help, and explaining their needs comes somewhat naturally, but many need to be taught how to do one or more of those steps. Here are a few ways a teen can grow her self-advocacy skills:
  1. Build independence through responsibilities that are not directed by an adult, such as a job, volunteer work, self-directed chores, or a responsibility that contributes to family life. A self-reliant mindset can increase her comfort with taking initiative.

  2. Practice articulating needs at home, perhaps by collaborating with a family member on language to use, or rehearsing conversations and making plans for when to have them. Having a plan makes these conversations both easier and more likely to happen!

  3. Participate fully (and take the lead where possible) in decisions about academics, such as course requests, getting academic support, when and why classes must be missed and scheduling make-up work, and reaching out to teachers or counselors when needed. Having a voice in the conversation makes it easier to use that voice more often.

  4. Have conversations about what matters in learning, both current learning and future goals. The more sense of engagement and ownership a girl feels in her own education, the more comfortable and natural it is for her to speak up for herself as she pursues it.
Whether at school with a teacher or in the workplace with a supervisor, self-advocacy helps girls get their needs met and therefore equips them to achieve their goals. Here at school, the Learning Specialists in The Center for Teaching and Learning are great resources for more ways to build self-advocacy skills. I encourage all girls to take advantage of that resource!