Written for Homes of Living Hope by MacKenzie Faris
Being an educator presents a unique opportunity for me to help grow my students beyond the classroom as they prepare for the real world. I want to make sure I provide them with the fundamental skills (writing and reading), as well as, social skills (conducting themselves professionally and deeper analytical skills that will aid in critical thinking). A traditional classroom can sometimes leave students lacking in the social skills, while having way too much experience with the fundamental skills. We call this “Teaching to the Test” and try to avoid it at all costs.
So where do service projects and community service play into an English classroom? I was recently reading an article called “Springing into Active Learning” that stated,
“Instead of focusing on the grade or score, they [students] can focus on their progress. Instead of focusing on getting the assignment over with, they can find satisfaction during the creation and production of work. Instead of trying to eliminate or cover up mistakes, they can evaluate the source of the error and search for a potential insight about their understanding—or their misunderstanding—of the content, the discipline, or themselves. Students need to learn to embrace struggle as a necessary part of growth. This lesson is crucial, not only for developing resiliency, but also for honing creativity, ingenuity, and entrepreneurship.”
By integrating edu-service projects into the classroom experience, a lot more can be offered to a student. The opportunity to study a country or location can appeal to the social studies classroom. Literature can be read to help encourage service in the community. Math and science can be applied throughout the production process, and the humanities can support the student’s service through art, welding, music, drama, etc. There is an opportunity for the inclusion of any class that wants to be involved in the service.
The number of classes involved, however, is not nearly as important as what learning opportunities the service projects provide for the students. I would guess that at any given moment, 85% of my students are interacting with their phones. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, texting, Snapchat, etc. all require the attention of the student, and what is lost when they give the attention to technology, is authentic human contact.
By introducing a service project to a group of teenagers, I know they are getting to feel something they may have never felt before: hope. The chance to show how they can change the world, can validate some of the meekest students. The opportunities for personal and professional growth are boundless as they learn the true value of a deadline. There are no forced interactions or scenarios, because everything they are doing for the service project is designed to solve a very real problem. Finally, edu-service projects allow students to see the fruits of their labor firsthand, and they answer the age old question, “When are we ever going to use this?”