Kelsey here. Remember me? You know, the dude with the underwear? Everyone remembers the underwear. It was such an honor to talk with so many educators and student leaders passionate about local and global engagement.
Today, I want to write to you about the student at the back of the room who you think isn’t engaged or listening. I was that student.
I didn’t ask many questions in class. I answered even less. I think a lot of my college professors would be surprised to see how much more of an engaged learner and community member I am now. At the time, they likely thought I was another student who they tried to reach but fell short. To be honest, they probably don’t even remember me.
They may not remember me, but I remember them. They didn’t fall short. It’s just that I wasn’t able to fully comprehend their lessons until I was exposed to a world outside of my own bubble. I never connected the dots on how the subjects I studied related to my life, and, in turn, the lives of folks around the world. I never put together how my life impacted the world and how the world impacted my life.
Now I travel the country speaking to students (www.whereamiwearing.com/speaking) about being engaged glocals. Sometimes when I show up on a campus the faculty express their concern that they aren’t reaching their students and hope that I can. If you’ve ever thought that or have had a colleague express a similar thought, have hope. Like me, your students might have yet to fully process the lessons.
This is what gets me so excited about service-learning. The more I learn about service-learning, the more I see the ability it has to expose students to ways of life and experiences much different than their own. For me the lessons I learned in my anthropology and sociology classes clicked five years later when I stood outside a garment factory in Honduras. But I can’t help but wonder if they would have clicked sooner had I been exposed to service-learning. How many more questions would I have asked in my classes had I traveled to inner-city Chicago to interact with the homeless, or to Africa to build a library, or had I worked alongside the local refugee community (all experiences attendees of the conference told me about)? How much more would I have connected with my studies and my community?
You never know what class or professor or experience will change your life or when.
To the quiet student at the back of the room, you just might be that professor. Your service-learning project just might be that experience.
Keep up the great work! Don’t lose hope.