I ended class introductions by asking students to write silently for 5-7 minutes on the subject: When have you felt silenced? When have you felt that your voice was powerful?
Their answers speak for themselves:
"A time when my voice was powerful - speaking my opinion about certain topics with family and friends.
I felt silenced when I was talking to any older men in the family."
"I felt powerful and that my voice was important when I won the championship in little league.
I felt silenced when someone made fun of me for speaking Spanish and told me that I'm not in a Taco Bell."
"My voice has felt powerful when I am babysitting.
My voice has felt silenced when I am around teachers that I feel do not respect their students."
"Although it didn't exactly involve my voice, I felt powerful when playing in the district honors band in high school.
A time I felt silenced was being raised Catholic; I had no say in my own 'beliefs.'"
"I have felt that my voice was powerful when I had to give my team a pep talk before a big meet.
I have felt silenced when I first came to the U as a freshman and didn't know many people."
"Powerful: when somebody learns from what you tell him.
Silence: Coming into a new country and not being understood while learning a new language."
Wow. I am speechless.