Michelle Haddix is a teacher and Speak Truth to Power (STTP) Lead Educator from Indianapolis, Indiana. In this interview, she details how she discovered STTP, her thoughts on teaching and STTP’s effect on her and her students. Interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
STTP: What brought you to STTP?
Michelle Haddix (MH): Five years ago, I began working at an inner city middle school. Most of my students were reading below grade level and their only other interaction with social studies was the history of the western world and classical, Anglo civilizations. I knew getting my group of 10 to 12 year-old students excited about social studies would be a challenge. I found a partnership in the Kennedy King Memorial, just next door to my school, and they invited me to a teacher training…[for] Speak Truth to Power. Karen Robinson led the two day training and by the end of day 1, I was hooked! Finally, I had found a curriculum that spoke to my students: one that was ethical, adaptable, purposeful and inspiring.
STTP: What inspires you to teach?
MH: Being an educator is like no other job on the planet. There are many roles that we play inside of the classroom. Inside of the classroom, we play the role of teacher, mentor, counselor, coach, adviser, friend, sister and brother. Outside of the classroom, we must become activists. In the poorest corners of the country, teachers are performing miracles without the necessary tools. I am inspired to teach because I have seen the impact that I have on human life. Teaching Speak Truth to Power is not just a curriculum that I deliver to students in hopes that they will become Defenders; I am a Defender myself. My fellow colleagues in Arizona, Kentucky and Oklahoma are living proof that this selfless career has a purpose and that we have dedicated our lives to fighting for the rights of children. It is this realization that inspires me to come to school each day.
STTP: Has STTP changed your approach to teaching?
MH: STTP has changed my approach to teaching in many ways. I always understood education and schooling to be a milestone for students. I was always driven to help students succeed in school so that they could become world leaders. STTP has inspired me to teach that activism begins now.
STTP: Describe your favorite part about working with STTP in your classroom.
MH: Teaching an AP class, it’s difficult during the school year to make room for students to actually explore their passions. However, after my students take their exam in early May, we get to spend the rest of the school year exploring areas where we want to speak truth to power. Students will find a local issue or concern that speaks to them, research its history, and then begin speaking their truth. All year long, students have been learning about Defenders in American history like John Brown, Cesar Chavez, Shirley Chisholm and John Lewis. The end of the year is when they take what they have learned and become Defenders themselves. I admire my students strength as I was watch them tackle issues much larger than themselves. It is by far the most rewarding month of the year.
STTP: What have you done to expand the reach of STTP?
MH: Over the past two years, I have been working very closely with community partners at the Kennedy King Memorial Initiative in Indianapolis to bring Speak Truth to Power to the Midwest at large. Within two years, we have been able to deliver the STTP curriculum to over a dozen classrooms and after school programs in Indianapolis. Most recently, STTP Indianapolis has partnered with the local Arts for Learning program in hopes of educating students about human rights and how the arts can provide youth an outlet…[for] speaking their truth to power. Speak Truth to Power Indianapolis also has hopes of expanding Speak Truth to Power across the city to ensure that all students are learning about human rights and how we [can] all work to protect them.
STTP: What has been your proudest moment in engaging with STTP?
My proudest moment in these past two years has been working with my students Alena Finnell, Natalia Zepeda and Jaala Weaver-Young. These three former students of mine worked to develop the newest Speak Truth to Power…[lesson plan] for Ruby Bridges. These young girls and I spend our summers and spring breaks traveling the city, speaking their truth to power, and living out the legacy that Ruby Bridges built for them. I am honored to be their teacher.