Choice and Voice
I met Suzi at a craft fair. As a writer and history enthusiast, she was interested in my project. She was excited to tell me about Mrs. Dorsey, an American History teacher who led her to consider the ways that people’s choices and voices have been limited.
I remember the walls of Mrs. Dorsey’s classroom as a collage of students’ posters, papers, artwork and poetry. She was known for creative research projects and allowing students to choose how they presented their discoveries. In my class, she assigned each student a historical figure whose contributions were understated in our textbook. I was asked to create a poster highlighting the life and legacy of Abigail Adams. At the beginning of my project, I recognized Mrs. Adams as a first lady, but I knew little else about her.
I learned that Abigail Adams was an early advocate for women’s rights. As an avid reader and writer, she encouraged her husband to remember the contributions of the ladies and act with generosity and benevolence toward women. It took courage for a woman to be outspoken about public policy at that time. My poster reflected her bravery and persuasive letter writing.
Mrs. Dorsey made me think about the subjectivity of my history textbook. For the first time, I realized that authors and publishers decided who was featured in our history curriculum and who was minimized. The internet was not widely available then. It is much easier now to access information. The gatekeepers have less power, but we still have to critically consider the sources. I credit Mrs. Dorsey with my passion for listening to the voices of marginalized people. I credit her with my affinity for independent artists and writers.
Suzi’s story made me reflect on the power of giving students choice and voice. Teachers like Mrs. Dorsey facilitate students’ construction of their own ideas and opinions. When did a teacher lead you to engage with a subject in a creative and critical way? Share in the comments below.
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