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Guidance: Shifting from Engagement to Empowerment

Updated: Oct 27, 2018

Our job, as Christian guidance counselors, is to guide students through their school years preparing them to meet the challenges of the next phase of their lives, be it middle school, high school or life. Our hearts yearn to see students succeed academically as well as mature both personally and spiritually.

With this desired outcome, we obviously want our interventions and guidance to be effective and impactful. How are we doing? If during guidance activities, your students are attentive and listening, you are doing something right. But what happens next? Do they really understand or are they just well managed and obedient? Are they really digesting, thinking thoughtfully and applying the information to their lives?

Experts say we must engage students in the material to increase effectiveness. But what happens next? Do they take action? Do they make different choices? And dare we seek an even higher outcome, for students to be so inspired that they lead others in initiating change? This happens when students gain a sense of ownership of their lives. When this happens, they are much more than “engaged” they are inspired, motivated, empowered to find and create solutions for their lives.

How do we inspire such ownership?

As counselor’s we have a great deal of content we must convey to students and parents. One idea is to consider that it is less about the content and more about starting conversations that lead students to believe they have choices and their choices matter to their future.

An insightful image by Bill Ferriter, illustrates “Engaging students means getting kids excited about OUR content, interests, and curricula. Empowering students means giving kids the knowledge and skills to pursue THEIR passions, interests and future!” There are two messages here;

1) We need to be willing to give up the driver’s seat, putting content direction in student’s hands. The idea is to “move next to our students and take the journey together.” AJ Juliani and John Spencer

2) We need to be ready to name those skills and give them opportunities to practice or “drive”.

That sounds good, but where do we start? We start with our mindset and then we engage students in these conversation, empowering them to take hold of the content themselves and find ways to use it to change their lives for the better? We have to be willing to reexamine the topics of our guidance sessions and how we are delivering them?

The goal is to help the students build the confidence and skills they need to take action. Engaging content and activities are a great start but empowering student’s changes how they view themselves and life challenges. Put them in the driver seat and get in the car.

Author: Kathy Pierce Howard, creator of Prep4Success Academy curriculum for educators and parents to enhance student motivation and success.

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