Give 'Em a Microphone!

"Middle school students are the most underestimated people in the world. I love that technology can amplify their voices." If you've heard me speak, you've probably heard me say this, but I believe it more every day. This week, my students gave TED-style speeches, and I was once again reminded how we need to give our students microphones and get out of the way. 

Our journey started by reading I Am Malala, and learning how the world isn't just our little San Jose bubble. We discussed religion and education and women's rights and terrorism and so many more big, heavy things. But in the midst of it all, we saw a girl who stood up for what she believed in, empowered by those around her. And when she was given a microphone, she just kept going. One day, in the midst of Malala and her friends' frustration with the Taliban, Malala's teacher and father helped them compose speeches and essays about their feelings on the issue. Soon, she was given a microphone. She writes, 

"And I knew in that instant that it wasn't me, Malala, speaking; my voice was the voice of so many others who wanted to speak but couldn't. Microphones made me feel as if I were speaking to the whole world" (71).

I want that for my students. I want them to be a voice for the voiceless. To stand up and speak to the world confidently about what they believe to be true. So we started on a journey. 

We began by watching Nancy Duarte's video on the secret behind great talks. She argues that all of the world's great speeches alternate back and forth between a "what is" and a "what could be." How perfect for standing up for the voiceless. 

My students chose topics that they were passionate about. We created sexy slides (thanks, Unsplash!), and we practiced. We said our speeches pacing back and forth on stage. We practiced with our shoes tied together. We shared with each other. We said it to the air. 

But then we took it to the stage. Under the lights, with a microphone, using a clicker. And their voices brought power. 

"Be strong in your opinion, but do it with wisdom, not foolishness, and do it with respect to those who have lost their lives fighting for the opportunity for you to speak out."

"Disregard everything, and run after what you love."

"How can you stop stereotypes and judging others?"

"I've never have had to worry about working or staying at home to cook or clean. All I've ever had to do is show up and learn."

"Instead of indulging in our own negative emotions and then affecting the people around us, we should learn how to release our emotions in another way."

"There are more than 63 million orphans around the world."

"Shoot for the stars, and never give up, living your worth, your voice, and your dreams."

I could go on and on and on. These students blew my mind with their poise and passion as they took the stage, the opportunity and the microphone empowering them to make a difference. 

Our students just need a chance to be heard. To share their passions. To ask their questions. To make a difference. Let's give them a microphone!