Thursday, April 8, 2010

Service-Learning by Allison O'Leary


This posting is by Allison O'Leary, a sophomore majoring in English and Education and a student in Spanish 211, Intermediate Spanish I. In her paper, she reflects on the role of service in language learning. Our thanks to Allison for sharing her thoughts with us. To learn more, visit Service-Learning at Jewell.

One of the unique experiences William Jewell has to offer is hands-on community involvement. Many of the academic departments ask their students to go out into the local communities in order to broaden their understanding of their chosen field of study and to give back to the community. For example, the Education department requires its students to do classroom observation every year so that these future teachers will be adequately prepared for the classroom. The Business department also encourages its students to do internships in order to network with local businesses and get on the job experience. The Nursing department places student nurses in hospitals starting their sophomore year to observe and assist and get the real hands-on training they need. Each of these programs also helps the community. The teachers Education majors observe get a rest; the businesses get some free labor and they get to select the best and the brightest future employees based on their internship experience; the nurses and doctors get to delegate tasks to student nurses that free them up to do other tasks. The Spanish department is no exception to this worthy partnership. All students enrolled in SPA 211, the intermediate Spanish class, do 15 hours of service learning. The program fosters partnership with the community. It provides not for profit organizations with volunteers and gives all students real-world experience in using the language they are learning. This unique partnership is a win-win situation for both parties involved.

I am currently doing my service learning project. I provide childcare for Spanish-speaking parents who attend English as a Second Language (ESL) classes at Second Baptist Church. Most of the children do not speak English, so it stretches me to use the Spanish I’ve learned.  I absolutely love working with these children. I come back inspired to learn in order to better communicate with them. And when three-year olds speak better Spanish than you, you feel the need to concentrate on your studies. The program allows these Spanish speaking adults to better move within society and their children touch my heart and my mind.

Overall, the service learning experience inspires community involvement, encourages solidarity with others and requires students to step outside of their comfort zone and grow in their language study and their community understanding.