I was happy that Prof. Carlos Martin Vélez Salas from Brescia University in Owensboro, Kentucky was my visitor today. He is interested in incorporating community service learning (CSL) in his teaching, and his visit was an opportunity to consider CSL from several vantage points:
- Instructors. Martin met with several of the TAs who have taught "Spanish in the Community." They were able to talk to him about their own experiences with the students, integrating the textbook (Comunidades), introducing their own teaching materials, and approaching the course from their specific areas of expertise and interest. It's not always easy to teach a course that someone else has designed, and all of my TAs have done an excellent job teaching this challenging course.
- Students. During my course on Spanish and social entrepreneurship, Martin was able to sit in on the class and observe the students while they worked. We also did several Facebook activities during the class that allowed students to show Martin their experiences and thoughts about Spanish CSL. (See examples below.)
- Program Administration. After teaching, Martin and I sat down to talk about what it takes to start a Spanish CSL program and run it effectively. Although do-able, it is not easy. The challenges exist both within the university (most often within the Spanish department itself) and of course in the students' work in the community.
- Community Partners. Unfortunately, with such a quick visit there was no time to go visit any of our community partners. However, he did see a video that I showed of a new community partner.
I enjoyed Martin's visit and I look forward to our continued dialogue.
I think that I will try to organize a workshop next year so that more people can visit our program. The workshop would last at least two days and include the following:
- Classroom observation.
- Community service learning experience.
- Sessions: an overview of CSL research, best practices in program design, mutually beneficial community partnerships, and curriculum development.
- Take-away: implementation calendar with specific action steps.
I proposed something similar to this as an ACTFL workshop last year. It wasn't accepted, but an on-site workshop with the opportunity to actually experience CSL themselves could be even better.
Would you be interested in a workshop like this? What would you want the workshop to include? Please leave a comment and let me know.