Sunday, May 24, 2009

Writing to Serve

Last week I attended my first OWP workshop. Besides meeting lots of new educators and enjoying an elegant meal provided by Willamette University catering service, I put my pen to the first page of my new writing journal. This will be the receptacle of my deepest thoughts this summer. “What’s in a Name?” was the theme. We jotted down the details of how our name was chosen for us, what it signified in the 5000 Names for Baby book and stories of ancestors for whom we were named. We listed nicknames and experiences brought on by our name. One aspect of our names that was not approached, but perhaps should have been considered is “What have you done with your name and how will it be perceived when you depart ?” See some teachers, retired or retiring, whose names exemplify service to the West community and to the world beyond.(Meri with son Lane)(Papo supporting our ELL population)(Larry, SS teacher)(Scott, SS teacher)
This brings me to an article I just read in Educational Leadership, May 2009, entitled “Stirring Up Justice.” Laurel Schmidt states, “When we embrace social justice as a pillar of learning in our classrooms, we declare that we’re all responsible for improving our world.” I believe that this is the one thing we want to impart to each and every one of our students because this is the essence of a peaceful and productive society – caring about others and doing what is right to show it. Pattie has promoted world citizenship for the past years at West with admirable results. We want to encourage that to extend into the summer months.
For our year end activities we might initiate one last writing assignment to get students thinking about setting some service-oriented goals for their summer months. The prompt could be- Write about a time when you helped someone. You could scaffold the writing exercise with questions such as
What was the problem and how did you discover it?
How did you come up with a solution?
How did you facilitate the solution?
Did others pitch in to help and in what way?
What did you learn about yourself and others through this experience?
What will you do this summer to make a difference in our world?
This activity could serve as a springboard to encourage our students to get involved in a good cause over the summer, whether it is helping more at home, assisting an elderly person with yard work, babysitting for a single parent, or volunteering at the library, hospital or animal shelter. A good book proposed by Schmidt is It’s Our World. Too: Stories of Young People Who Are Making A Difference by Phillip Hoose (Joy Street, 1993). It tells about heroic kids who have made a big difference in the world.
She ends her five-page article, worth the effort to read, by stating that we as educators are influencing the next generation of voters, politicians and corporate leaders. Teaching students about the importance of taking a stand for a worthy cause and just plain caring about those around us, as “stewards of our environment and champions of human rights” will be the most important lesson they will ever learn.

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