Many deeper learning practitioners have long advocated for student voices. We see this as a means to young people having agency and ownership of not only their learning but their lives. In a new film entitled “LISTEN,” filmmaker Erahm Christopher takes this concept to an entirely new level.

Christopher, who spent over eight years speaking with over 1,000,000 young people, wrote a script attempting to capture what he learned from conversations with young people about how they feel. The result is a groundbreaking new film (see here or in the trailer below) intended to be viewed by educators, parents, and students across the country.

Christopher said that over 20 years ago – after Columbine – he noticed adults were not giving students a voice. This prompted Christopher to create a student-shot educational documentary series and live school assembly that was used in over 1200 schools across the U.S., Canada, and Europe. After eight years of sharing this program, Christopher said he experienced something nothing short of an epiphany.

“I discovered I had the definition of ‘listen’ all wrong,” said Christopher. “The students were not saying that no one listened to them, but rather that no one paid attention to them.”

Christopher said he realized that at the core, listening fosters connection through a shared empathy and this is what young people were wanting and needing.

“My experience helped me craft a story that I hoped would inspire youth, adults, and educators to realize the importance of shared empathy and how the act of listening can change a life,” said Christopher.

The film shows the life of the students, parents, and school staff outside of school.  The audience follows the characters into their homes and witnesses how they cope with loneliness, adversity, and pain.  Christopher said that this perspective helps the audience understand that they might not know the complete stories of the individuals in their community.

Read the full article about film addresses mental health of young people by Michael Niehoff at Getting Smart.