Sandy Spring Friends School



Gnu Stories Podcast | Episode 11: Let Your Lives Speak: Self-Advocacy For All Ages

Gnu Stories Podcast | Episode 11: Let Your Lives Speak: Self-Advocacy For All Ages

LISTEN: What is self-advocacy and why is it important? What do we risk by not teaching this skill? Our Learning Specialists and Upper School Director of College Counseling join Dr.Rodney Glasgow as they talk about the importance of building their self-advocacy tool box, its alter ego of "learned-helplessness and selfishness," and the role self-advocacy could have played in the insurgency at the U.S. Capitol.

Guest Panelists:
  • Bela Meghani | Lower School Learning Specialist
  • Patti Lemere | Middle School Learning Specialist
  • Shannon Needham | Upper School Learning Specialist
  • Chris Miller | Director of College Counseling


Quotes From Our Panelists

Answering the question: How would you define self-advocacy?

  • "[Self-advocacy] starts out with having the self-awareness to realize that you have some needs and then being able to communicate with these are your teachers or other trusted adults." - Patti
  • "I think one of the really important pieces is the trust factor... children really need to know that [they can trust you] if they're going to take that risk of talking to you." - Bela
  • "I think what we often need to recognize, even as adults, is that [self-advocacy] can be a collaborative process and that one of the most important parts of self-advocacy is recognizing your resources." - Shannon

Answering the question: Where is the line between self-advocacy and selfishness?

  • "The question [we should ask] is.. 'am I looking to be an advocate for something that really only makes my life easier, makes my life better, or is it something that I will benefit from, but then it also can benefit the person across the room?" - Chris
  • "We know that our youngest learners are trying to tease out what is the difference between something I want and something I need. ...What we're really doing with our youngest learners is getting them to think in community terms as well." - Bela

Talking about Self-Advocacy, Protesting, and the Insurrection at the Capitol.

  • "I think the big moment of [self-advocacy] is reflection. [SSFS's] hope for the student is that they learn how to sit with the reflection of what they're looking to gain...  the ability to advocate well is to know how to ask for it in the right way." - Chris
  • "If you bring up the Capitol if I perspective-take and I put myself in the shoes of someone who makes those choices... in terms of the process that led them to feel that that was the only way that they should or could self-advocate... [one] thing that I thought of is possibly not having the experience of being told no. There is a skill that is about not getting what you want, of self-advocating and not having the outcome be what you wanted it to be." - Shannon

Starting with the Need, Not the Outcome.

  • "With [preschool-5th grade] students we start with hopes and dreams, which is our way of getting students to think about goals. ...We're getting them to think about the structure of school" what are the kinds of things we're going to do? What will be really hard? What will be hard for you, but not for me. ...If this is hard for me, and it's not hard for you, what can I ask you? What can you ask me? And then what will our answers be? Will that work for everybody? We take a lot of time on this, and sometimes parents ask us, 'when are you going to start academics?' And we say to them, this is academics, this is how we get to a place where children trust us enough to try hard things and knowing that they can ask us [or peers for help]." - Bela
  • "[Self-advocacy] is something we practice year after year at SSFS. And then our students...I've heard from so many who come back and talk about how easy it was to talk to their professors at college because - one- they had already been calling teachers by their first names. And two, they knew how to have a conversation with their trusted adults." - Patti

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