"...ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."- John F. Kennedy (quoted on Page 1)
This quote from JFK was a great way to open up and begin the article considering it's obvious connection to the overall message of the piece. Kahne and Westheimer's whole point of writing this article is to get the message across that Service Learning should be integrated into all schools to give students experience in working in the real world and help them make connections with adults in their possible intended career field of choice. This process will additionally promote students to get out in the world and help others. This is currently happening here at Rhode Island College, most notably in the FNED 346: Schooling in a Democratic Society course, the one which I am currently enrolled in with many of you, the readers of this blog. The Inspiring Minds organization works with the professors of the FNED classes to set up locations throughout the Providence School District which the education students work with young students from early childhood through high school settings. For FNED 346, we are required to complete 15 hours of community service helping students through the Inspiring Minds organization to help the students in the Providence schools while also gaining first hand experience working with students since this is most of our intended careers. This additionally connects to Kozel's work, "Amazing Grace" due to the fact that by working with the students in the Providence School District, many of them aren't from the same backgrounds, beliefs, and cultures as us, resulting in us college students learning to work with a great variety of people.
"In addition to helping those they serve, such service learning activities seek to promote students' self-esteem, to develop higher-order thinking skills, to make use of multiple abilities, and to provide authentic learning experiences- all goals of current curriculum reform efforts." (Page 2)
This quote definitely connects to myself, and hopefully to others as well. Through the course of the FNED 346 class, we've been groomed and taught how to properly interact and communicate with the students around us, working towards the goal of helping them in any way possible. In order to do this, we are required to make use of our social skills and gradually developing teaching skills. Through these efforts, we improve our learning experiences, teaching methods and skills, and hopefully develop the skills and knowledge of those we are assisting. By performing this duty, not only are we raising our own confidence and self-esteem levels, we are additionally raising those of the students whom we help. In my own teaching experience at Mount Pleasant High school, by helping the members of the band and chorus through working one on one or in small groups, the students I've helped seem genuinely grateful for the assistance and individual time I'm spending with them and leave the classroom looking a little more happy than when they came in.
"The importance of a meaningful reflective component becomes clearer when one considers the kind of deliberation and student empowerment that such a curriculum can foster. " (Page 11)
Finally, this quote spoke enormously to me. In the article, Kahne and Westheimer are discussing the reflection some students were required to complete once they had finished their service learning assignments. While I don't personally think having the students write a long reflection of their experience should dominate the grading aspect of the assignment, what they said in between the reflection did have an impact on me. In general, they stated that the students who helped in volunteering and performing their service learning, depending on the amount of effort and time they put into their assignments, got exactly what they put into it. The more hours and quality of work they put into their work, the better of a grade they got compared, as they absolutely should have. But overall, this shows that if you deliberately put effort into working with these students and help to improve their academic experience, the students you are working with will feel more empowered and feel more confident in themselves, and as a result, do better in their school work.
Point to Share:
Although I do think that having a service learning assignment is helpful to anyone looking to become a teacher or work in an environment where you help others, I don't think that it should be mandatory, or at the very least have a lower amount of hours to be completed. In my own situation, I wouldn't have minded doing my service learning assignment if I wasn't so busy. My schedule is completely filled from 9 am to 4pm or later every day of the school week, so to start off, I barely have enough time to get from class to class and have a small meal, let alone drive to a school and teach students for an hour that I don't have to spare. If there was another way to complete the service learning requirement, such as having options available for several hours during the weekend or something similar, that would have made the service learning experience less stressful and more enjoyable for me.