We can’t just say we are going to create this one opportunity during the year to develop students’ leadership skills. It’s a daily practice in the classroom—and not just for strong leaders in the classroom or school. It has to become something that involves every single student, at all levels. That means all students feel that they are in a safe environment and can say what they are feeling. This becomes part of students’ rights and responsibilities—to be able to express their thoughts and feeling, to be heard and accepted, and to hear and accept others.
Empowerment is in part a skill set. Empowerment paired with character development leads to responsible and constructive action. Without skills, information and resources, students cannot fully assume their agency as empowered beings.
Empowerment takes preparation. All too often, young people are expected to magically metamorphose into capable, competent and confident adults at age 18, able to vote and assume legal responsibility for themselves. Yet only a month earlier they were still required to raise their hand to go to the bathroom! In fact, freedom requires training.
We can lay the groundwork for our student empowerment from a very young age, building skills by giving them opportunities to make age-appropriate choices and decisions, turning experiences and interactions into learning opportunities. This process gradually prepares young people, enabling them to develop the skills needed to make crucial, life-changing choices and decisions.