In The Service of What?
By Joseph Kahne and Joel Westheimer
This week I decided to do a regular reflection blog. (I’ll eventually do a “connections” post). I liked this reading and never truly thought into that much detail about service learning and the actual politics of it. It took me a while to get into the reading but once I did, I found the “cases” of service learning were really interesting. I liked that both projects gave the students the traditional experience of being apart of a service learning project but at the same time each “case” stressed upon different approaches.
I can remember when I was in junior high school and every other week my 8th grade class would go and bring canned goods to a homeless shelter down the street from our school. I never looked at this as a form of service learning or as some sort of project, but rather something nice that the school did. When I look back at even other events I did for different organizations in junior high or even high school I truly learned a lot about who we were helping and why, but there’s something different from then and now. As I go each week to tutor the kids at school for this class, I feel like there’s something more. Maybe it’s because this is something I want to do for a career but I really feel as if I am making an impact on these kids with this project. I know that this is a requirement for our class, but truly, I enjoy going and helping them and feel accomplished when I leave.
There is an example in this reading where middle school children are visiting an elementary school in a poor neighborhood. Many of the students are reported that their parents said, “They were concerned for their children’s safety.” The students later came to school and in a written evaluation wrote thoughts prior to the visit, the authors report, “ the students had imagined horrified children running around on a dirty campus.” The parents seem to have had an impact on the children’s ideas. The fact that the middle school kids were from an upper-middle class suburban area also played a key roll in the visit and thoughts before the visit. After the visit the middle school students were surprised by how well behaved and friendly the elementary school children were. The Kahne and Westheimer called this “diminishing otherness”. Can we talk about how this “otherness” is SO true?!? Maybe that's why I feel my service learning project is different this time. Yes, actually I believe it is. I am finally looking past the “otherness” and have full faith in these students. Helping them solve problems and spell words is truly something rewarding. Their faces light up when you tell them “you’re so smart” and it's a great thing to see. “ Maybe this [community service] is what citizenship is all about, acting in a decent way towards people who live where we live”(8). This quote speaks for itself. This was truly an inspiring reading this week. In class I feel we can discuss our own experiences with different service learning we have had prior to this year in FNED and even just our thoughts about service learning in general. This link gives some great service learning project ideas created by educators! check it out :)