Thursday, October 11, 2012

What More Can Spanish Community Service Learning Students Do?

Students want to help as much as possible in the community.
by Ann Abbott

It's the middle of the semester, and students had to spend their time in class today evaluating their work in the community. Are they reliable? Proactive? Professional? Here is how we handled the class period:

  1. Determine what type of volunteer they are. Students read about the different types of volunteers--from the organization's perspective. They had to 1) determine which categories they belonged to and provide a supporting example from their work in the community, and 2) indicate what categories they wanted to be by the end of the semester. For that second step, students had to give their reason for wanting to reach that point and delineate some specific steps they can take to get there. They interviewed each other to compare and contrast their answers.
  2. Evaluate their own community participation. Students then filled out the community participation rubric in our syllabus, giving themselves a grade on their work in the community.
  3. I contacted my community partners. What I observed from the students is that they want to become even more involved. They want their work to be gratifying. That doesn't mean that they think the world revolves around them. Not at all! But they do want to feel useful and that they are learning. So, I came back up to my office and wrote the message below to my community partners.
What are you doing at this mid-point in the semester to push your students to achieve even more in the community?

"Dear community partners, 

We are at the mid-point of the semester, so I wanted to check in with all of you. 

First of all, thank you for accepting the students, training them and delegating work to them. They learn about Spanish, Hispanic cultures and “real life” through their work with you. You are my co-teachers. And I recognize that this implies additional work for all of you. 

Second of all, students all report that they love what they are doing—and that they want to do even more! Sometimes it can be difficult to come up with projects for students, I know. But they truly want to be busy contributing to your mission. So let me just suggest some things that you might ask them to do when there is down-time in your office or school:
·         Do you have a Facebook page or Twitter feed? Have the students write posts, upload pictures, take some short videos, post interesting links, etc. They can be very creative. And if you don’t have a social media presence but always wanted one, now would be a good time to ask students to help you with that process.
·         Are there resources that you could add to your website? Ask your student volunteer to search for them and add them. For example, maybe Smile Healthy could use some links to videos narrated in Spanish that show correct brushing and flossing techniques. Your student can do that for you. Maybe the Refugee Center could add some links about declaring income taxes (a task they do often in the spring). Ask the students to help.
·         When is the last time you put out flyers in certain neighborhood? Your student might be able to pass them out and say a few things in Spanish to the residents. Or would you like a student to contact the people at Kraft, Solo Cup, or other factory and ask if they can leave materials for their Spanish-speaking staff? Maybe even make a 5-minute presentation during break?
·         Do you have clients/families that haven’t shown up for a while? Donors who haven’t given lately? Prepare some talking points for or with your student volunteer and ask them to make some calls—in English or Spanish.
·        Do people know how to get to your building? Ask students to describe bus routes or take videos about how to arrive. Maybe even create a Google map for you with pictures, videos and other information attached to it.

These are just a few ideas. My students have various levels of Spanish, but they all have lots of creativity, knowledge of technology and desire to help you accomplish your mission even better with your Spanish-speaking stakeholders. 

Let me know if you have any questions. 


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