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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

It's Midterm: How Are Your Students Doing in the Community?

Orgullosa de mis estudiantes que trabajan en la comunidad.
by Ann Abbott

My students do a self-evaluation about their participation in the community at the midpoint of the semester and at the end. (You can find the Community Participation rubric in my "Spanish in the Community" syllabus.) As I read them last week, I looked for trends.

Trend 1. A positive experience. Students are overwhelmingly enthusiastic about their work in the community, their community partner and the effort they put forth. That is very re-assuring.

Trend 2. Down-time is a problem. For students who work in the grade schools, there is almost no down-time. They help the teacher, help the kids, have almost constant contact with someone. They might get tired, but they don't get bored. Students who work in an office, however, have unpredictable periods of down-time combined with bursts of intense activity. This is not news to me. I have known this is a problem since I began doing this in 2004. Honestly, though, I'm no closer to figuring out a solution. Here are some issues and attempts at solutions:

  • Students know that they should be proactive, but that often translates into actively asking their (busy and distracted) supervisors for more work.
  • Instead, I would like students to get to the point where they propose tasks to their supervisors.
  • Using technology during down-time is my best idea so far. Post on the community partner's Facebook page. Make a short welcome video to post on their website. Look up some links with information in Spanish that could go on their website. 
I'll talk about this with students today.

Trend 3. Use students' talents. One of my students and her supervisor toyed with the idea of my students giving a short workshop to students about the basics of journalism. The problem: some Latina middle-school students think "small" when imagining careers for themselves. The solution: my Latina student is a blogger and citizen journalist. The other talent that almost all my students have that gets taken for granted is their sociability. They are good conversationalists who enjoy interacting with people.

Trend 4. Supervisors really appreciate stand-out students. One student wrote about how the teacher she works with sent an e-mail to the volunteer coordinator about the students' outstanding work. Way to go students! Your impact can be huge.

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