We asked Sylvia Fagin, a veteran middle school teacher from Vermont and an alumnus of CWI’s Summer Institute on Service-Learning and Sustainability, to share her thoughts on designing truly meaningful learning experiences. Sylvia clearly gets the bigger picture with teaching. Here’s what she told us.
“Rather than thinking of service-learning work as a sprint, perhaps we should think of it as a long-distance run, and a relay at that. We may run the first leg, or one in the middle. On some projects we might cross the finish line, while on others we might ‘only’ prepare the track. It’s all important, valuable and necessary to ‘make change’ and experience real ‘success’ in real communities.”
“As I work to design and implement service-learning projects, I want to be sure to focus on the context in which their project is taking place. Making sure that the students understand how their efforts fit into the community need will be very important. The students may not run the entire race.”
“But I want them to understand which leg they’re running, who’s handing them the baton and to whom they’re passing it, and what the finish line looks like. With that information, they are more likely to understand that real change takes the dedicated efforts of many people over time. I want to help teachers use reflection to help their students understand that personal growth is not something that happens in lieu of tangible results, but rather that a changing mindset is a hoped-for outcome braided into the longitudinal and meandering nature of sustainable change in real communities.”