Centring student wellbeing in our schools and classrooms is the cornerstone of facilitating youth empowerment in education. This goal is fully compatible with our professional role as teachers, since student success goes hand in hand with student wellbeing. We move toward this goal as our students find the confidence, with our support, to try new things on their own and to take on difficult challenges. Students may struggle when they meet with difficulties, but by persisting they learn, thereby increasing their self-esteem and sense of their own capacity and pride, leading toward empowerment.
We can facilitate this process by encouraging our students, affirming their potential, creating a vision of what is possible. Maintaining a consistently positive focus, framing and re-framing when necessary so that students remain optimistic, is fundamental to this role. Our support can be emotional, intellectual and practical, and is always more empowering when it is less visible though ever present.
It’s so important to give young people an opportunity to say how they’re feeling, especially at the beginning of the day. They won’t necessarily say what is going on for them, but they will get to express to the teacher that there is something going on for them. Then the teacher can assess if they need extra sensitivity and support. Teachers have said that checking in with students in the morning totally transforms the atmosphere in the class. Even math teachers with a content heavy curriculum are taking the time to do that and it’s making a huge difference in terms of the way students function in the classroom. It increases students’ capacity to function, to respond to each other, to have the capacity to support each other. It sends the message that having feelings is okay. That leads to a sense that you are okay, your voice is okay, who you are can be brought to the classroom. And that brings a sense of personal agency.