I've taught middle school English for 16 years. I've taught in a wide variety schools: public and private schools, struggling schools, and schools with a vast array of resources. No matter the school, the students are essentially the same and need the same things. What I have found is that students will feel empowered if they feel they are respected. If they feel they have a voice that is valued, they will use that voice. If they feel their ideas are encouraged, then they will soar with those ideas.
These are the best lessons I've learned as a teacher and they are so simple:
1. Greet your students at the door and welcome them to class each day. Let them know you are happy they are there.
2. Really talk to your student, not at them. Really listen.
3. Believe they can do great things and make sure they know it.
4. Be honest and fair.
5. Model the behaviors you want to see.
These five acts create a classroom environment where student feel safe to try new things, safe to receive feedback, and safe to truly innovate. They can't be innovative if they don't feel good about being there.
Simple, but essential.