According to servicelearning.org, “Service-Learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.” I am excited to embark on this new experience. I will not only be able to learn about genocide in a classroom; knowledge in which I have been accustomed to since pre-school, but also be able to experience it first-hand. With this experience I hope to offer as much service as I can. First, I will answer the question, “What is good service learning?” Then I will discuss what I will work towards so that my group and I are engaged in good service learning.
I believe that good service learning is well balanced, meaning that I will be able to offer as much as I will be able to gain and/or take away from this experience. Honestly, I have no idea what to expect or what I will encounter. This cluelessness makes my anticipation and excitement even sweeter. But, a day away from the flight, I am ready. Yet, my readiness is also accompanied by a worrisome thought that was discussed in one of the readings in class. This reading discussed the problems an alternative spring break trip leader named Kevin held when it came to his experiences with service learning. In the reading it is stated, “For Kevin and other students, the learning aspect of their experiences was greater in comparison to what they perceived they gave in return. This is my worry. I grant it that I am not participating in this trip through purely altruistic motivation and that I do want and/or expect to gain something meaningful throughout this week. But, I do not want to just go there and barely scratch the surface on the level of positive impact to those who I will meet. These unique people have been through experiences I have never and hopefully never will have to go through. Therefore, the fear of being able to relate on any topic should arise; but it doesn’t. Truthfully, being the only male on the trip (except for our professor), for some reason, strikes a more worrisome note of relatability then does those from halfway around the world. Girls, I love you, and I am fine in your department, but through past experiences I have learned that you can be a scary bunch. I do not want to get off in a rant about that topic so I will discuss my next point on what I will work towards so that my group and I are engaged in good service learning.
Since I believe that good service learning is well balanced, meaning that those who participate in service learning will be able to offer as much as they will be able to gain and/or take away from the experience, I will work towards trying to come near this balance. I know this will not be easy. In fact, in the same reading, the professor that Kevin emails states, “what is “good” service? I struggle with the complexity involved in connecting college and community, especially when relationships operate from imbalanced interactions of server and served.” Here, I must try to balance the act of being the server and at the same time reciprocally becoming the served. I do not want to go into this trip feeling like I am going to attempt to help “those” people. I want to go into this trip feeling like I am going to help people in general who will give me a new and enlightened perspective on life. On this trip I hope to balance the service learning by partaking in action that will be the most meaningful and impactful to those I meet so that my group and I will become more engaged in good service learning.