In this article about service learning entitled, "In the Service of What? The Politics of Service Learning" authors Kahne and Westheimer highlight two completely different approaches to service learning. One method, used by a 12th grade history teacher named Mr. Johnson, had less guidelines and was more of a volunteer experience rather than giving of a service. Mr. Johnson explained his assignment by saying "students would interact with those less fortunate than themselves and would experience the excitement and joy of learning while using the community as a classroom". The projects students chose ranged from volunteering in a center for babies whose mothers were addicted to drugs, and another student simply ran errands for a local doctor. While both projects are effective and useful, these two students did not get the same experience out of their projects. This teacher required no extra reflection or assignments to go along with their service learning, so the student who ran errands for the doctor, was not actually learning about or helping those less fortunate than themselves. To me, this seems like a waste of time and a waste of an opportunity to really gain great experience from the real world.
In a second service learning assignment with a different teacher, Ms. Adams, had her students all do the same project together. This allowed the students to talk with their peers and share knowledge and experiences that can spark interesting and intellectual conversations amongst the seventh grade class. These students focused on the prominent issue of homelessness in America. The students actually learned in class about homelessness prior to their service learning and continued to write journals and reflections about things they saw in their service learning. This seems effective because it gets the students to actually participate and reflect on what they are doing and realize why it is important.
After reading this article, I thought about my own service learning experience in this class. I enjoy the fact that after we go into our service learning, we are required to write down journal entries to reflect on our experiences. These journals will be interesting to look back on after a few years of being a teacher to see if our experiences in the classroom still match up or if we are using any of the teaching techniques we first saw with this service learning project. The fact that a majority of us were placed in kindergarten classes gives us the chance to share stories and tips with our peers. With this particular service learning project, I do not feel as though I am really making a difference, I feel like I am merely observing the approaches to teaching and the kindergarten environment. I hope that in the future when I do service learning that I will get the chance to personally impact the life of a student or have that student impact my teaching career.