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23 October 2013

Service Learning Reflection (Special Olympics, Part 3)

As I wrote about in June this year, I required my advanced-intermediate (Level 3) listening and speaking students to volunteer to practice the language. I have complied some of the students final reflections on volunteering over the course of the semester, and I believe they are thoughtful and worth sharing. 

A little background: In addition to the Special Olympics, my students volunteered at the soup kitchen, animal shelter, community/campus garden, and at a Special Olympics fund-raising event. Their experiences were varied, but the sentiment remained the same: they enjoyed volunteering and learned from their experiences. These have not been edited in any way by me, so the excerpts are true language-learner writing. I have included some explanation in brackets if I have felt it was necessary.  

Soup Kitchen Reflection:

At the beginning I asked about the mode of action and what should I do. Then I began to provide meals and food for the customers. I ask everyone who comes in what do you prefer to eat. Each time the food finishes I go back to bring more from the kitchen. I was dealing with everyone with a smile and all were welcoming. I went into the kitchen to help my friends who are volunteering like me in making various food. As well as in the processing of various beverages to the needy. During the first hour I was talking with everyone and with the volunteers about how amazing the idea of this restaurant is, and it's a beautiful idea that serves the community. We need such ideas to serve all the people. Also I spoke with a number of people who came for eating and talking about a lot of topics that related to our lives in general. It was a beautiful experience and very wonderful when I feel like I'm a reason for the happiness for others.

Soup Kitchen Reflection:

In 06/13/2013,I went to Soup Kitchen for 1 hrs. That was a good opportunity for me. I did many things. First, i cleaned the dishes which was the first time for me to wash dishes out of my house, it was very good. I was very happy to do that . The water spill on my jeans. which made me impressed [embarrassed] .Second, during the break i met new American friends . I talked with them that benefited me to improve my speaking skills .Finally, i clean the tables after people had left the kitchen, when i was cleaning them , i had tried to take of little pieces were sticking in the table that made me angry. Soup kitchen is a great volunteer people there are nice and friendly that can feel you more comfortable. I hope to open soup kitchen in my country because it has a lot of benefit for poor people.

Final Semester Reflection:

             Before this summer i never be the Volunteer in my past life. And i never consider about this. However this summer i did it and also enjoy it so much.  In the beginning i don not even know how to be volunteer and how to do the job in here. My first place was garden where was plant the vegetables.  I learned lots of thing from here. For example how to plan the filed because she told me if i plant the vegetables very close. That will effect them grow up. So after this i think be volunteer not just donation yourself. This is just one part on volunteering. On the other hand. It also can increase your knowledge. Both all what i want in here. I need to be volunteer. In fact, for international students to be volunteer have more big significant means for us. First it can help us practice speaking and learning. As we all know the English is most important in here. Then it improve our ability because you should do everything by yourself. This is better than nothing to do. Next to be volunteer also can rich my experience in US because i do not want to nothing in my memory when i go back my country. So i am really appreciate teacher let me to be volunteer. This is really helpful.

Final Semester Reflection:

Since our teacher sets the volunteer task to us, I have already volunteered for four orgnizations so far. They are Animals Shelter, Isabella Community Soup Kitchen, Plant Vegetable for Hungers and Auction Special Olympics. Each time, Hero and I worked toghter. We took care of some cats, walked some dogs, swept the floor, cleaned some windows, took weed away from a small garden, and so on. In the past one month, we really did so many different kinds of  task. I find that thay have something in common, it is that some people need our help. I love the task what I did because I would like to help people in need. I hope I can help them to get out their troubles. Most of people we helped are poor people. For example, we looked after a small garden. Various vegetables are planted in there, and when the vegetables grow up,  the administrator will offer them for hungers. Isabella Community Soup Kitchen is a similar place, the organization offer some food for poor people. We also get some benefit from the volunteer tasks. Through we did these task, we gained lots of soial [social] experence. We learned how to apply for a volunteer job, and during we completed that job, we look out our unique ability. It made us to be more confident. On the other hand, we got to meet a lot people, that means we got more oppotunity to make conversation with native speaker. It was useful for us to improve our integrated English skill especially speaking and listening. To sum up, volunteer is a good activity, it offers an oppotunity for us to help others, at the same time, we can improve our integreted skill.

Final Semester Reflection:

          This semester, I had different volunteer. The first one it was Special Olympic. It was in the SAC in CMU. It was first time I took a volunteer. I was nervous and fear because I did not know how deal with special Olympic. I asked some people there if they needed help. Then I found out woman with a big table. The above the table was fruits and vegetables. She gave special Olympic fruits and vegetables. She was so busy. She looked like need help. I asked her if she needs help. She said, “Yes, please.”  Then she taught me what I should do. She was so friendly with me. So I helped her.  Also the special Olympic was so kind and friendly. The second volunteer was in soup kitchen. I was there five times. I had different experience there. I volunteered in provide food, wash dishes, prepare food, and clean soup kitchen. So we should keep everything clean because it is impertinent kept customer’s’ bodies. The boss always said to us you have to clean your hand and wear gloves. So these experiences give me something new like how I deal with different people and different ages. Also I talk with American people without shy [shyness]. I in addition these experiences make me more trues and depend myself. I am able to make American friends. The impertinent thing my language is helped by these experiences. So the new language just needs practice. In the end I recommend other international student take a lot of volunteer because it helps to improve their language and earn experience different in your country.

Final Semester Reflection:

Summer semester usually goes faster than the regular academic year. This summer semester only lasted for about ten to eleven weeks. But in my opinion in spite of it is so short, but it is very impressive. During the summer semester, our integrated skill teacher arranged an interesting assignment which was let all the students take part in some social activities and create an opportunity for us to communicate with American people by English. I hope that I could talk to many people who are responsible for different occupations, undergo various occasions, and do some diverse jobs. I totally participate four different tasks. They are Animals Shelter, Isabella Community Soup Kitchen, Plant Vegetable for Hungers and Auction Special Olympics. From those volunteering activities, I learned that the how to find volunteer changes on the official website of the volunteer center, how to take the general process for signing up, how to make an appointment with others, ask for help from them, how to and collaborate with another and how to talking with people more politely. All the experience increased my self-confidence, social knowledge. And the most significance of improvement is that it helped me learn how to understanding and speak in English. When we were participating in each task, we must communicate with other people with English. Such as making a call to their office, trying to figure out what the currently exact job is, and understanding how to finish it. And all those approaches really benefited my English communicative skill and vocabularies.

I would like to recommend that everyone had better take some volunteer hours each semester especially for the students who are studying in Language Institute. Not only you will have change to help others, but also it can improve your English level.

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As you can see, many of the students very thoughtfully reflected on what they learned and how it benefited them as people and language learners. Of course, not all students were sincere or reflective; many simple recorded their experiences without a second thought; however, those who took the time to think and reflect did so in a way that I have never been able to see from students. I have always struggled to get students to reflect in a meaningful way, but they really learned from these volunteer experiences, which created the opportunity for genuine reflection and growth. 

I highly recommend service learning to any teacher of any level. For more about service learning and civic engagement, read my post about our presentation at the Intercultural Horizons Conference in 2012. Here are the links to Special Olympics, Part 1 (Before Volunteering) and Special Olympics, Part 2.