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Monday, February 7, 2011

Emotions and Community Service Learning

by Ann Abbott


My good friend, Marcos Campillo, shared this image on Facebook recently. Marcos is one of the most creative professors I know, so I am sure that his students will learn a lot and have fun with whatever activity he creates around these images.

It also reminded me of the range of emotions that Spanish community service-learning (CSL) students experience.  Now that we have had three weeks of classes, students have gone through many emotional stages.

Some students have been analytical and self-questioning: can I really commit to this course and the work in the community, given all my other responsibilities? Indeed, some students dropped the course after realizing that they couldn't commit to it.  That shows maturity, even though I would love for students to see the added value of hours spent in the community versus some other activities they might be doing.

One student in particular was downright scared. (I will share that case in a future post.) On her first visit to the Refugee Center, she had to work with a service recipient on a matter that taxed her Spanish abilities as well as her general knowledge of the issue at hand. She questioned whether she could handle the work there. Later, however, she felt relief when she worked the next time and was able to handle everything that came at her.

Right now I have a message in my inbox from a student who is feeling under pressure: the program she will work with does not really start until March, so she's afraid she won't be able to work the necessary hours. Should she switch community partners? There's no clear-cut answer, but I know that she is anxious to get to work in the community and perhaps impatient to get going on those looming 28 hours that are required.

Many other emotions will emerge during the semester, including my own. (Why isn't "agobiada" pictured? ha) While our tendency in the academy is to focus on intellectual matters and ignore (even disdain, at times) emotional matters, we must explicitly talk about emotions in a CSL course. In fact, Comunidades does include activities about students' emotions because they are a part of the learning process when you are self-reflexive, as CSL requires.

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