In the Classroom: Students in Full Empowered Voice

How do students in school find their own voice—in the sense of being able to form independent opinions and confidently convey them in a compelling way to others?  As we all know, people who have voice in the sense defined here, have power to make things happeOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAn.  So how do they stimulate this power in the schools in Santa María Tzejá (SMT), the case study village of my book?
The regional state supervisor spoke about how well they do it when he would come to SMT.  He said these children had energy and confidence in their own voices, even with him as a stranger in the room.  They made comments and asked questions in response to things he shared with them.  In contrast, he told me, in other villages the students were quiet, shy and unable to form questions.  What makes the difference in this one village?

In their classrooms SMT students are often given problems to work on or questions to discuss in groups of four, where all get “air time” and one of them is selected to give a report out from the group to the class when it regathers as a whole.  In the photo Lucia Us is working with one of the groups of four.  In a math class students who have difficulty with a problem get help from other students who have figured it out.  When visitors, like delegations from my church arrive in the village, they are entertained on arrival by an array of presentations by the students who sing, do skits, or dance.  The visitors are sent off at a similar goodbye show the night before they leave.  Primary school students put on one of the events and middle schoolers do the other.  Teachers note that these performances are for our entertainment, yes, but also to give children experience in being comfortable in public communication.  Students also have theater classes where they learn to project their voices and, as I noted in an earlier blog, the middle school students from time to time try out for roles in plays that, in a couple of cases, have been so well performed that they tour their region or the country, putting them on.
Imagine my surprise and joy when I stepped into Bertilia Canil’s kindergarten class.  Without missing a beat, Bertilia had them sing a welcoming song in full voice.  She then invited me to teach a song. The pleasure continued as I walked around the village later in the day, hearing students from that class teaching my foot-stomping, hand-clapping song to their families.
In all of these ways these young, emerging citizens are developing confidence in their ability to project their voices and personalities in both academic and entertainment settings.  As they do that they experience a rise in their self-esteem, a sense of self-worth and personal power that will later make them demand human rights for themselves and others as they refuse to be marginalized.
To get the whole story and the theory that underlies these posts, I invite you to get and read my book, Seeds of Freedom: Liberating Education in Guatemala, published by Paradigm Publishers

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