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Food For Thought - Educating Children to Have Personal Agency

06 Aug

Food For Thought - Educating Children to Have Personal Agency

Posted By: 
Kimberly White

This week's Food For Thought comes from online school co-founder and designer behind the Personalized Education Group, Tamra Excell. She is currently at the annual Supporting Emotional Needs for the Gifted Conference. Last week I wrote that “When talking with parents about their hopes and dreams for their children, it usually boils down to two things: happiness, and self-sufficiency. ” In reflecting on happiness I noted the importance of teaching young people to define, pursue and share happiness throughout their life time. Now how about self-sufficiency? As before, I’m sharing some ideas here and look forward to hearing yours. Unknown Object When we say we want our kids to be self-sufficient or independent, what we are usually saying is that we want them in control of their own lives and not dependent on others. However, some people – kids and adults – need help in life, either temporarily or due to a permanent condition. So I would like to propose a new phrase describing the idea of self-sufficiency: personal agency. Personal agency is having a voice in your life. This means you get to speak for yourself, define yourself how you wish, and have an active role in decision-making when the outcome will impact you. Yes, being able to pay the bills is part of that. But have you ever known of anyone who was financially independent but not in the driver’s seat of daily life? Some people need help finding or expressing their voice and often have someone speak for them. The advocate or ally for this person faces the challenge of accurately representing that person’s voice while - when possible – helping that person gain the ability to express themselves directly. The goal is to empower each individual to be in the driver’s seat to the fullest extent possible for that person. Conversely, have you experienced somebody speaking for you in a way that was NOT aligned to your own ideas or needs? I have, and it took me well into adulthood to become strong in my own voice, and I can still struggle at times. As such, I feel the importance of personal agency for our students. Since CMASAS was founded on a philosophy that nurtures life-long personal agency, I believe that it is crucial for all of us to have a clear idea of what this means – with examples to point to. On that note, I have three questions for you: 1. What would you add or change in defining personal agency? 2. How would you define yourself as a person? 3. Do you have any ideas or examples for empowering kids, or even adults, in developing their own personal agency? As parents and educators of online school, let’s actively ponder these questions and converse about them with each other and our local communities. Together we can empower a passionate generation of young people to fully know themselves and make themselves known. Celebrating your voice and mine, Tamara