Landmark students juggle many responsibilities each day: school, homework, sports, arts, community service, and often long commutes. Each year, a small group seniors add another time-consuming commitment to their schedules that requires travel, public speaking, and sharing personal stories. That role is being a Student Advocate.
The Advocates, led by faculty members Jason Mansfield, Dan Ahearn, and Ashley Norman, deliver presentations to graduate and undergraduate education students at local colleges and universities, as well as to students, teachers, and administrators at elementary and middle schools. They talk about how having a learning difference affects them in school, at work, and in other aspects of life. These personal accounts are honest, powerful, and eye-opening.
Since 1995, dozens of Advocates have shared their stories, given advice, answered questions, and enlightened many. In addition to influencing future teachers and students, the Advocates leave the program with well-honed public-speaking—and some teaching—skills.
The Advocates Know What Works
The presentations include a video featuring Landmark students, personal stories, interactive exercises, and questions and answers. The Advocates also share what teaching and learning strategies work best for them and how aspiring teachers can incorporate these tools into their classrooms. Examples include Landmark's Six Teaching Principles, such as presenting information in varied ways, making lessons active and kinesthetic, using templates, encouraging self-advocacy, and more.
Partway through their presentation, an Advocate asks an audience member to read a few pre-selected sentences aloud. The person reading aloud clearly struggles with the text and often displays signs of embarrassment or shame. That is the point. Out of these difficult first-hand experiences comes empathy and compassion.