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Friday, December 26, 2014

Simple Gestures Mean a Lot in Community Service Learning

by Ann Abbott

At the end of each semester, my students write thank-you notes to their community partner. (See page 150, Lección 23 ¨¿Cómo vamos a despedirnos?¨, Activity 23-1 in Comunidades: Más allá del aula.) During finals week I mailed the cards from the last couple of semesters with a hand-written thank-you note from me, too. It felt good to get them off my hands and into the hands of the people to whom they belonged: our community partners who do so much to train, develop and teach my students when they're in the community.

I received the email below from one of my community partners, and I wanted to just make note of a few things that stood out to me:
  • Hand-written notes from students that express their thanks as well as specific examples of what they learned with the community partner are very appreciated. In a way, writing those notes during class is a simple thing to do. (Although I always work with students to help them edit their Spanish, vary their vocabulary--there is more than one way to say "gracias"--and to remember that it is always "gracias por"!) It's a small gesture, but it has real value.
  • When she reached out, Lila made a kind gesture to me, too. She told me about two new faculty members with whom I might share interests. I emailed back, told Lila that I would invite them to lunch next semester, and asked if she'd like to join, too. When you work in public engagement, networking is vital. How can you be in public engagement if you aren't engaged? So, thank you, Lila, for mentioning your new colleagues to me.
  • Stories have a big impact. The student (name changed) that Lila describes, wasn't my own student; she was in my TA's section of "Spanish in the Community." Hearing her story is powerful!

Hi Ann,

What a wonderful surprise to receive the thank-you notes from former SOAR tutors. I loved reading the notes! Thank you!

This semester [Marie] was the only student to sign up to volunteer at SOAR for her service-learning course. I believe she enjoyed the experience and benefitted from it, since she signed up to continue working with the same Spanish-speaking 2nd grader during the spring semester.  :)  [Marie] also had the opportunity to volunteer in the bilingual class during the school day for additional experience and hours. The bilingual teachers at Garden Hills are always so accommodating as they love the Spanish 232/332 students.

We have two new professors in the College of Education – Dr. Patrick Smith, Associate Professor of Bilingual Education and Literacy, and Dr. Luz AlbaMurillo, Associate Professor of Bilingual/Literacy/Reading Education. I hope you have the opportunity to meet them sometime during the spring semester, if you haven’t met them already.

Thank you for offering Spanish community service-learning students the opportunity to volunteer as tutors with the bilingual children who stay for the SOAR after-school program.

Happy Holidays!

Lila

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