When I don’t have any power, I don’t feel free.
In the process of consulting and interviewing young people to create this module and series of stories and testimonials, we heard young people speak movingly, over and over again, about the crucial importance of adult support in their lives. We often heard young people define empowering moments as those times when they were given more responsibility, when they had a meaningful say in imagining and defining goals and guidelines. They told us that what matters most is not the results, so much as that we open doors, offer support and encouragement, display confidence in their role and abilities, identify limits and remain actively engaged.
"That’s an interesting project idea and I really think you can make it happen. Let’s talk it through to figure out where the challenges are and what you’ll need to meet them. I’d like to help out anyway I can."
Modelling attributes we wish to nurture within our schools, such as respect and empathy, while providing tools and creating conditions that help enable students to realize their full potential, fosters their self-esteem, self-confidence and well-being—and motivates them. Inviting and encouraging our students’ full engagement in this way promotes their character development and leadership skills through empowerment.
For students who identify as First Nations, Métis and Inuit, opportunities to draw strength and wisdom from their cultural values and traditions are very important (and congruent with many character attributes we hold in common within our schools). Empowerment for these students may come through engagement with leaders in their own communities and cultures in connection with the curriculum and with our schools.
There are strong connections between existing character development programs and the teachings of our Aboriginal peoples—First Nations, Métis and Inuit cultures. Their teachers are interwoven through life, and include respect, honesty, bravery, truth, wisdom and love.
When adults hold a sincere and unshakeable belief in the capacity of young people, genuinely perceiving them to be whole and worthy human beings, a multitude of possibilities can unfold.