Last year I gave a talk about Spanish community service learning (CSL) at the University of Illinois, Chicago, invited by my friend and colleague Prof. Kim Potowski.
I told my "Spanish in the Community" students that people at UIC were interested in starting a course similar to ours, and I asked them what they thought I should tell my UIC colleagues.
- By far the most frequent piece of information was that they should offer students many options for community partners.
- Second in frequency, they thought the UIC faculty should know about the advantages of a Spanish CSL course. Here are some specific advantages they mentioned: it increases students' confidence; it gives them many opportunities to practice; it helps them understand the real issues confronting local Latinos.
- One student gave a piece of advice about the places where students work: they should be organized and well-structured.
- One student said that the course should help students with common grammatical problems.
I'm not surprised by what students emphasized. I know that choice is very important to them. They probably don't know how much work it takes to offer them choices, but we do. And that is why those of us who work in CSL as lone wolves need to make sure we are always asking for as much departmental and institutional support as we can get.