Thursday, April 7, 2011

Reflections on Empowerment

by Jan Shoop

Every morning when I wake up, I think about ways I can empower myself and others to have happier and more productive lives.

“If you think you can, you can.
And if you think you can’t, you’re right.”
Mary Kay Ash

For most of my career, I taught and mentored students, teachers and parents. Looking back, I realize that the training and mentoring I provided was helping others to empower themselves. I think when people feel positive and self-confident, they become empowered to do the right thing and make the right decisions.

Many of the students that enrolled at StarShine Academy had little or no feelings of empowerment. Most of these students felt they were victims. In my mind, you can’t be a victim and feel self-empowered at the same time. Actually, the opposite of empowerment is to be enslaved or to feel dominated by another. The students that enrolled at StarShine, when I was Principal, didn’t enroll because they were happy or successful at their previous schools. These students enrolled because they were not happy or successful. These kids did not feel empowered.

“Authentic empowerment is the knowing that you are on purpose, doing God’s work,
peacefully and harmoniously.”
Wayne Dyer

The number one job of a Principal is to help kids feel empowered. Without empowerment, a child will never be truly successful. Kids may become successful academically, without feeling empowered, but they will never become successful, confident, life-long learners.

So – as the Principal, my first task was to help everyone feel empowered. One way that I was able to accomplish this task was with “Opening.” Opening happened first thing in the morning, as soon as all the students arrived and the bell had rung. The students gathered in the cafeteria along with the teachers and some of the parents. Opening consisted of a motivational, self-empowering program consisting of stretches, songs, affirmations and lots of smiles.

Thursday was called, “I’m going to have a Great Day Thursday.” The focus of Thursday’s Opening was to make sure everyone had a smile, was eager to learn and felt empowered when they left the cafeteria. I stood at the door as the students left. I would shake hands with each student. The students would look me in the eye and say, “I’m going to have a great day!” If I didn’t believe that the student genuinely felt that he was going to have a great day, I wouldn’t let go of his hand. I wouldn’t let go until I was convinced. After I shook hands with all the students, they would go off to class. And I would head for my office knowing I had helped everyone start the day feeling empowered.

“We must become the change we want to see.”
 Mahatma Gandhi

Wouldn’t it be nice if we all got out of bed in the morning, thinking about how we could empower ourselves and others? Try it sometime. You might find it makes your day brighter!