When we are parenting our children or educating our students, we greatly influence their development, sometimes consciously, sometimes involuntarily. We take on the role of people who know and think we know what to do with the methodology whereas if we put these skills and tools in service of students’ and children’s needs, the results are much more powerful.

Perhaps when we’re caught up in the system or the expectation of data and results, there are many reasons why we can’t do differently and we may miss the opportunity for these young people to have their voices heard.

When we consider the learning difficulties, special needs, anxiety, behavioural issues, emotional needs and everyday life challenges, we are getting closer to the reality of the average family and common classroom – where this missed opportunity is even more amplified.

As we try to do our best, questions come up like; ‘How do we manage this? What am I supposed to do? How can I help them to function as future grown-ups?’ Of course, there are no straight answers.

As we have been working with students through our LifeLab program in times of confinement, online learning and a general upset of what each of us thought of as our everyday normal, some answers have emerged for us.

The students have responded in ways that have strongly expressed their needs and it has become overwhelmingly clear that the questions we should be asking are not about us, but focused on them.

  • What do they feel?
  • What do they need?
  • What do they want us to know?

We have found throughout the LifeLab lessons that in the sharing process, using the tools and techniques students can relate to, one response keeps popping up, which could be an answer to all 3 questions:

To be heard.

We were recently asked to run a trial session for a school and were privileged to facilitate a group of remarkable students, each presenting with diagnosed special needs which, for some, effect their learning, for others cause difficulties for their emotional, mental and social development.

Would the LifeLab magic operate with this first-time group?

A (usually not so willing to communicate) young student described to us in one of our activities;  ‘This is how my head has all the thinking and I can’t get it out and because it’s so much…that’s why my head’s off….It explodes.’

His peer soon followed with; ‘I go to YouTube. It’s where I go to get away because otherwise other people don’t get me, so there  I can figure it out and know what’s going on’.  It seemed this student sought connection and to be understood.

As the session progressed, each child was given the opportunity to share their experience and what was going on for them. The magic did happen and the participants were engaged, beyond what their teacher had usually witnessed.

There is exposure to vulnerability, risk, fear, uncertainty and truth in what we do. And we believe there should be if we are to lead by example as educators or parents. We feel that we must have a willingness to ‘go there’, even if we are unsure of the outcome. We must stop talking, keep listening and start realising this is the only way we can understand, appreciate and see the potential of these bright young minds.

Their wellbeing, creativity, learning opportunities and the value to be gained in life experiences truly depends on giving them a voice. Although we consider ourselves in a leading role as educators and parents, we continuously learn from the students provided we keep giving them a safe space to be heard.