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Human is a film by acclaimed photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand. The origin of the film is described below – an opportunity for us to take away environment and circumstance and just focus on the humanity of a personal story. We get to hear real voices, tell real stories about what it means to be human. And it is breathtaking.

Do we all have the same desire for love, for freedom, and for recognition?
What does it mean to be a human today?
Why is it still so hard to understand one another?

These are the questions Yann had and the ones his work strives to answer – or at least shed light on. His critically acclaimed film is presented in three voices:  the voice of the people, the voice of the environment, the voice of the music.  It is beautiful on many different levels and hard to separate one voice from the rest as they blend so harmoniously together, each adding to the film a different layer of understanding of what it means to be human.

The film is on Youtube for free. The purpose of making the film was to draw humanity together in the hope of understanding one another more deeply, and so it has been made accessible to anyone who wants to watch it. Check out the YouTube channel.

So why do we need a film like this?

“You can’t listen to 2,000 people telling you about their suffering, their experiences and their wisdom without it having an echo on your world. You take the subway thinking about Aïda, who goes to work at the rubbish tip. You suddenly don’t complain anymore. Qosay torments you all evening because he raised the idea that you, too, might find yourself killing in the name of your beliefs. You think about it, it makes you uneasy. Then you spend your weekend with Elena who tells you, ‘You’re lucky, because you’re alive.’ That’s right, you’d forgotten that simple fact. I experienced working on this film like a whirlwind of emotions and reflections which turned the meaning of my life on its head.”

-Maeva Issico, assistant editor

We have been telling stories since the beginning of time. And in telling our stories and sharing our ideas, we can not help but be changed. To think differently, act differently – even if just for a second.

How often do we let our students tell their stories? As their teachers, we tell them so many stories about themselves from our perspective: our comments on assignments, our words in report cards, our voices during conferences.  What would happen if we truly let our students share their story?  What if this was part of what we set out to ‘teach’ each day? How could students learn and grow from listening to and speaking their own story?

What if we asked our students….

  • How do you feel about homework?
  • What would you do if you had no homework?
  • Who do you learn from?
  • What helps you learn?
  • When you have “free time”, what do you like to do?
  • What would you like to be able to do that you can’t do yet?

Or what if we asked them, “What will you do one day?”

What if we gave our students opportunities to share their stories via:

  • drawings
  • graphs and diagrams
  • video messages
  • photography
  • written stories
  • visual art
  • music

And helped them to collate and annotate their work in a portfolio of their understanding. And what if this wasn’t ‘extra work’ but an integral, embedded part of their school day?

How can we do this? I am in the process of designing a project for my Masters Degree in which I am exploring this very question.  How can we best facilitate the story-telling process of each child in our care? How can we support teachers in structuring their classroom to accommodate the voices of their students? How can technology aid this process and provide us with a greater understanding of the learning that occurs for each student?

If you have any thoughts or ideas, I would love to hear them!

2 thoughts on “#WhatMakesUsHUMAN”

  1. The challenge is sometimes not to tell a story, but to teach how to listen with the heart. When I am doing a speaking activity in a class, each student is focused on what “they” will say, and sometimes forget to listen to what the other is saying. It is not just about the sharing and the talking, but also about how to listen together to what is being said. Mindfulness I guess. We are in a world of individuality in front of the device (smartphone/tablet/computer) – how can we bring this to the group and the social interaction? That is what makes us human. Our interactions and compassion.

    1. Such a good point! My first two thoughts: 1. I love the listening strategy “Save the Last Word” where students bring something to the group that is symbolic of the learning (a video, object, photo, drawing, personal item) and places it in the centre of the group. Other students have the option of saying why they think the student chose this thing to represent their learning, with “the last word” going to the student who explains his/her reasoning. It is a great way to allow for other students to think and talk but also values the student and his/her choices and is kind of a ‘first step’ for many into seeing something from different perspectives. 2. I think 1:1 devices are great. I would advocate for 1:1 in every setting. BUT…just because you have 1:1 devices doesn’t mean you have to use them in that way. They are still collaborative tools. They can still drive conversations and require interactions on a human level. I have used a Writers Workshop routine developed by Homeschooling advocate Patricia Zaballos and it is an amazing set of strategies/guidelines for having students speak their stories and really listen to each other. It takes time to build that trust within the group but it is so valuable and so great to see children genuinely listening to each other with the hope that they can support and learn from and with each other. Thanks for reminding me of the need for collaboration and listening – really important!

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