Learn to Empower Your Students to Find Their Voice: Explore Professional Development Resources from Speak Truth to Power 

By Rita Mortensen, Educational Technology Coach, Verona Area School District 

Discovery Education and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights are providing the opportunity for teachers to access free professional development resources dedicated to empowering our students to find their voice.

This curriculum is coming at a time when we see more and more youth getting involved with causes they are passionate about or where see injustice in their own communities. Students are advocating and using their voice for change. As educators, I think it is so important to integrate human rights education in the classroom to provide resources, a space for conversation and inspiration for our youth. They have powerful ideas and it is our responsibility to provide an avenue for them to learn how they can be empowered to share their voice.

The new Master Class Series provides many valuable ways for teachers to learn about how they can provide these opportunities for students by incorporating the Speak Truth to Power resources into their classroom curriculum.The videos in the series highlight the work of five educators who are actively using the Speak Truth to Power to empower students to take a stand in their communities.  The series is broken into useful categories – real world applications, social and emotional learning, preparing for college and career, 21st century skills to prepare students for life, and cross-curricular ties – to help you align introduction of the resources appropriately in your classroom.  In each video, the featured educators provide best practices and share their experiences using the materials to aid new users in their exploration.  It’s like having a trusted peer take you for coffee and walk you through their teaching experiences in detail.  If you are new to Speak Truth to Power or even if you have used the resources previously, you don’t want to miss this opportunity to further develop your skills! 

In addition to the Master Class Series, I also found the resources below very helpful in preparing to implement the Speak Truth to Power materials: 

Resource #1 

Many educators are looking for some guidance on how to begin conversations on human rights. The educator webinar provided as part of the classroom resources provides step-by-step recommendations for introducing human rights into your classroom.It provides ideas and entry points for you think about ways that you can provide these opportunities for our youth. It would be a great idea to listen to the webinar for an overall understanding of all of the resources and best practices for using them.

Resource #2 

The interactive defender map features activists from around the world and the important work they are doing to protect and defend human rights.Your students will learn about human rights activists leading work on mental health awareness, LGBTQ rights, religious rights and human rights abuse, in addition to other various areas of concern.The interactive defenders map illustrates how important work to defend human rights is being done around the world.

Resource #3 

The classroom resources available through the program are invaluable and reviewing them in advance can be helpful in preparing lessons featuring the program materials.The video vignettes and corresponding lessons are a great way to begin having conversations about human rights.There are currently three fascinating videos featuring human rights activists. Each one showcases the passion that people have to stand up to injustice.One of the video segments features an Afghan rapper whose family tried to sell her into marriage when she was 10 and 16. She shares her story, her music and her passion to help others around the world.In the corresponding lesson, students analyze why human rights are so important and why they need to be protected. All lesson plan materials are provided. 

I recently had an opportunity to work with a dedicated teacher that has been a champion for student voice.In fact, she created a course at my school called Voices Rising – Literature of the Resilient. Throughout the course, students explore literature that focuses on marginalized voices struggling to rise up against established authority.Students have an opportunity to study of a wide variety of genres from various writers and hiphop artists–spoken word poetry, speeches, novels, and essays. 

When I learned of the new Master Class Series from Speak Truth to Power, I immediately thought of this class and how powerful it would be to incorporate Speak Truth to Power into the curriculum.With passionate educators and comprehensive professional development resources, we can help amplify our student’s voices.