top of page
  • tinakennedy84

Championship in Advocacy

Updated: Jun 18, 2023

Everyone needs a champion.

When I was in my last couple of years of university, I met an amazing professor in the education department when I was her temporary admin assistant. She was the first person who ever told me I was creative. I grew up in a household of crafters and dreamers and often felt left out of that scene as all of my attempts at arts and crafts ended up messy renditions of everyone else’s. Until I met this professor, I thought that being creative meant creating art – she explained that my ways of solving problems and my willingness to try things a different way were unique and that’s what made me creative. It was incredibly empowering to receive that feedback and encouragement to see myself as creative, to know that I was not left out of my family’s creative genetics – those genetics were just manifested differently in me.

Moving forward in life being able to value my type of creativity meant that I had confidence when presenting ideas and solutions in my jobs, meant that I questioned my overall value less, and allowed me to advocate for both myself and what I had to contribute. One person seeing and pointing out my creativity was a seed of confidence for which I will always be grateful.

Speaking Life

In my first year of teaching, I invited a youth worker I’d grown up with to speak at my school for a PD day. He presented the idea that we, as adults, and especially as educators, have the power to speak life or death into our students – a very impactful statement for all of us gathered there as we considered the numerous ways our words could be received by our students. One of the most powerful ways I have found to speak life into my students is to advocate for them when no one else will and they can’t speak up for themselves, to be their champion.

What advocacy can be

Sometimes, advocacy is taking the time to explain to teachers how their students’ brains are working, that misbehaviour is not always intentional. Sometimes, advocacy is highlighting students’ strengths and gifts when others are frustrated with them. Sometimes, advocacy is writing letters of support for scholarship applications. Sometimes, advocacy is insisting that students receive accommodations and adaptations to meet their learning needs. Sometimes, advocacy is tracking down the community agency which will provide much-needed support for the student and/or family. Sometimes, advocacy is reminding students themselves of their gifts and ability to learn and grow, and of their responsibility to do so.

When we advocate for our students and for each other within various social systems, we are speaking life into one another. We are noticing everyone’s abilities and potential and clearing a field for them to flourish. An important part of flourishing is guiding students to be their own advocates, their own champions.

Being their own champions

In a society where stating our strengths can be seen as bragging and we’re encouraged to be humble – and in an education system that tends to focus on what needs to be fixed and learned rather than what students already bring to the table – it can be a challenge to get students to believe it’s OK for them to say, “I’m good at ____, and I deserve every opportunity to learn and grow.” Two key components to empowering students to be their own champions is to (1) help them explore their strengths and how to articulate them, and (2) give them the words to state what they need and how to ask for help in a collaborative tone.

There are many self-exploration questionnaires we can use with students for them to tease out their strengths and learning styles, and it’s also important for them to be able to identify strengths in soft skills – time management, communication, interpersonal skills, creativity, critical thinking, etc. For some students, they can see what they’re good at doing, but not how that doing translates to underlying soft skills – when they love team sports and being a team player, that means they usually have cooperative communication skills; when they’re always voted team captain, they have leadership and teamwork skills. Once identified, it may take some role-playing practice for students to feel comfortable saying out loud, “I have strengths in _____ and ____, and am looking for opportunities to share those strengths with others.” Communicating this to teachers allows students to build from a place of strength rather than deficit.

Meanwhile, asking for help can feel very vulnerable, and many people, young and old, are not comfortable in that feeling. It’s important for our students to know that asking for help does not make them “less than.” Because of the vulnerability factor, asking for help is courageous. At the same time, they need to learn how to determine which people and situations are safe to ask for help. It can start with first identifying specific supports needed and then how to couch that request in an informative rather than frustrated frame: “I struggle to hold on to more than one input at a time, so could you please give me a moment to execute or write down an instruction before you give me the next one?” Students do not always have the words to make these requests, so we need to give them the language, role play using it, and then create safe situations to practice them.

In the Middle Ages, “champions” were nominated to fight by proxy for trials-by-battle to prove innocence or guilt. Unfortunately, youth sometimes feel branded as “good” or “bad” students and feel powerless to improve themselves or their situation. As the adults in young people’s lives we can be their advocates while also teaching them to be their own champions; in doing so, we can speak life into our students.

**Check out Jenna Prada's advice on improving self-advocacy skills:

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page