Speaking Up

Teenage girl with headphones and laptop having online school class at homeBy Kathleen Federici, MEd.

It’s not a shock that this past COVID year (and counting) has everything and everyone turned sideways and upside-down. Nothing is the same. The school year has been very difficult for me and my children, who are not used to cyber learning, and my new gig as an algebra teacher is hit or miss. We have been left with a very large learning curve for everyone involved. The silver lining is that this experience has offered me the opportunity to teach my kids about personal advocacy and speaking up for themselves.

Being an advocate means speaking up for yourself. I tell my kids, when you are not doing well in a subject or don’t understand a concept, ask your teacher for support or guidance. Things will just get more difficult and nothing will change unless you speak up for yourself and ask for what you need.

These are life lessons that carry along as adults. I tell my kids, if you don’t attend Zoom office hours with your teachers and let them know what is going on with you and where you could use more assistance, how will they know? Sometimes, it’s as simple as the teacher not knowing you re-submitted that assignment because the software does not give alerts when work is re-submitted. How would anyone know that if someone didn’t speak up?

It may not be easy to ask for what you want or need. Kids and adults alike at times just look down at their feet and say, “No, that’s OK.” What they really want to say is, “I’d prefer …” When we look down at our feet and say, “No, that’s OK,” we have just missed our opportunity to self-advocate.

When confronted with a tough or confusing situation, the ability to speak up for yourself could get you what you want or need and make you feel really happy that you spoke up and advocated on your own behalf.

Kathleen Federici, MEd, is IPMI’s director of professional development.