Letter to the editor

Students, You inspire us!


Lately I’ve been impressed beyond words by the courage of our students to speak out and participate in so many virtual spaces with faculty and staff – putting in time and work that’s optional and not part of their coursework. Not just because this represents extra effort on their part, but because it shows a level of empowerment and self-awareness that I sorely lacked as a (super shy) college student myself, and to be honest, didn’t find until I was in my 30s.

Obviously, students benefit and find satisfaction from these experiences or they wouldn’t take part. But I’d like to make the additional point that hearing from students – for example on a panel or as part of a webinar or presentation – also enriches the experiences of those of us who are faculty and classified professionals. When students tell us about life from their perspective, what matters to them, or teach us about the cultures they belong to, we become the students. Our jobs become more interesting. And more importantly, we get a better sense of who we serve, as educators. We learn not to underestimate students, perhaps to listen more and talk less.

This was especially the case for me when four students who are part of AFT’s Anti-Oppression Committee spoke out to our District’s Board of Trustees about how large class sizes during the pandemic were affecting their learning experiences personally and academically – for the worse. Talk about brave! And it was also true during a Library Corner poetry event where many students read original poems they’d written about their heartaches and transformations – in front of an audience including nationally renowned poets. Last month, this was again on view for those watching Skyline’s virtual film festival Stories of Transformation, when CSM’s Muslim Student Association president Hajer Mkawer schooled us on modern misinterpretations of the role of women in the Qur’an (Koran), and TSV editor Umaima Ejaz, speaking from Pakistan, talked of the power of film and media to show men the real possibilities of what women can do, even within the confines of a patriarchal society — and her own home.

Speaking out gives students who might feel marginalized a chance to show why their views and perspectives matter. However, for those of us who are no longer students, but who make daily decisions that affect our students, this is our time to listen, to absorb, and be inspired. During these challenging times especially, thank you for giving us that opportunity.

-Jessica Silver-Sharp, Part-Time Faculty Librarian & Secretary, AFT1493