Friday, February 16, 2018

Service Learning Needs Special Opportunities and Daily Opportunities

I'm thankful for bus drivers willing to guide big vehicles full of children down busy Japanese roads!

February is GREAT!
Not only is it a special month for recognizing Black history (I’ve learned about some amazing people on social media, like 
Eugene Jacques Bullard), it also has a special day for expressing appreciation to our loved ones (yeay, Valentines!), and at my school, a special week for service.

This past week, 6th-11th grade students worked together to serve our community in all kinds of ways, including cleaning up local beaches, doing projects at nearby churches, visiting with residents of elderly care homes, making and serving dinner at a homeless shelter, putting together athletic programs for older elementary students and Bible school programs for younger, and using music, art, and dance to entertain audiences. Generally, the groups spent Monday preparing for their project, Tuesday through Thursday carrying out their project, and Friday debriefing their project, putting together a presentation for their peers, and then celebrating with everyone’s presentations in the afternoon.

It was a great week, and I’m glad we show our value for service by providing the time and resources for this focused week. I also hope it isn't the only opportunity for service students see themselves as having. Any more than Valentine’s Day should be the only time we say, “I love you,” to our nearest and dearest, or February should be the only month we mention Black history. 

How do we infuse service into the daily routine? Notice it, name it, and teach the skills to do it better. Daily service opportunities in my high school English classes include the following:
  • Answering group members’ questions in small group discussions. 
  • Providing group input that propels the discussion forward and deepens everyone’s learning.
  • Listening to each other to understand, not to formulate a reply.
  • Inviting the participation of quieter peers.
  • Giving each other helpful feedback in reading classmates’ writing drafts. 
  • Sharing good books.
  • Thinking about our audience—what they need to hear, and how I can help them best hear it—when creating, practicing, and delivering presentations. (Instead of thinking about myself and what people are thinking of me.)

What other daily service opportunities do students see themselves encountering in your classes?

This is how we prepare students for service-oriented lives: some special opportunities, coupled with a lens through which to see all of life as a series of daily opportunities for service.

By the way, you may wonder what service project I led students on during Service Week. I didn’t. I had my own personal service project—being the bus monitor on our longest route (3 hours round trip, morning and afternoon) so the other monitor was free to focus on his organizing role in Service Week, so the bus driver could focus on driving safely rather than on the behavior of nearly 50 students, and so the students could get safely to school and back so they could participate in Service Week. Yeah, that's what the picture at the top is about. Here’s some more of what it looked like for me:

Me and my bus from the outside

Me and my bus (empty and quiet) from the inside

Starting to fill up!

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