Student Voices Matter
I was thrilled.
On a visit to Western International High School, a Detroit Public School close to the Ambassador Bridge to Canada, I had the opportunity to witness a poetry reading by students who had been part of the legendary InsideOut Literary Arts Project. As is clearly demonstrated on their Facebook page, InsideOut empowers students throughout Detroit by affording them a vehicle to express their thoughts and feelings in creative and unfettered ways. The work dispels despair and replaces it with hope.
Students read, recited, and performed their poetry in Western’s black box theatre. Poems spoke of the reality of growing up amidst the challenges of adolescence. Some poets spoke of the inequity and indignity faced by people of color, and the societal challenges we all must address in order to create a more just reality for everyone.
What struck me as most meaningful was the profound feeling of liberation that accompanied the opportunity to share. While students had no illusions that their situations would change quickly, what endures with me is the profound feeling of empowerment that was on display. Kids’ voices were heard. There is real power in providing a time and place for students to express themselves.
InsideOut enables students to live a writerly life. Kids understand the power that comes with self-expression, and leverage it to speak up and speak out. Messages of hope abound. Students’ voices are heard!
Rick Joseph (@rjoseph852) is a National Board Certified Teacher and has taught 5/6 grade at Covington School in the Birmingham Public School district since 2003. Prior, he served as a bilingual educator and trainer for nine years in the Chicago Public Schools. Rick is thrilled to serve as the 2016 Michigan Teacher of the Year. Through Superhero Training Academy, Rick’s students have created a superhero identity to uplift the communities where they learn and live.