‘Listening to Student Voices’ event can help promote understanding

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When third period ends on Monday, students will have an hour-long activity before their next class. But students cannot write it off as just another pointless Tutorial video. If they listen to it, students will hear their peers share heartfelt, honest stories about their lives.

After 500 hours of editing and many days of staff preparation, the Cultural Proficiency Team will present its film “Listening to Student Voices” to the school. Comprised of students opening up to the camera, the film will be followed by discussion-based activities to help students better understand each other.

If students can get nothing else out of the video next week, they must understand this: Nobody’s story is trivial. It is not about listening just to pacify the speaker—it is about understanding everyone’s perspective. Students cannot dismiss one another’s opinion; instead, they must treat the exercise as a way to expose themselves to new ideas.

The development of the film has already fostered better relations amongst staff members. When an earlier version of the film was shown to the staff last spring, the screening was postponed by a majority vote, as staff worried that the film might be too divisive. Rather than losing heart, the Cultural Proficiency Team took this opportunity to include more student voices in the film as well as to ask the students more questions.

However previously divided the staff has been, the Cultural Proficiency Team’s work brought the staff together when they viewed the edited film. The Team was able to achieve the goal for which both sides had originally striven— to create a film that would improve the communication between students. By ensuring that the staff members would feel comfortable with the activity, the Team also paved the way for more effective discussions.

Although only a dozen students shared their stories through the film, the subsequent discussions are even more important than the video. The activity should be a valuable step in building a stronger, more supportive campus community, but it can only be a start.

Students who take the activity seriously will send a clear message to the school: They value forums of open expression. Hopefully, this will encourage more of these forums as well as inspire more students to seek them out.