Monday, June 23, 2008

We Gave Back

Last winter, I felt compelled to join a challenge that involved upping the ante in my personal life. I was going to give back.

Whether true or not, I feel that my profession has been a calling. I have been working with people who have disabilities for about ten years. This has been something that was not planned by me, but something I stumbled into junior year and never left. It is perhaps a gift, it has always fulfilled me. I love my work now, as I'm able to teach young people with disabilities functional skills that will serve to transition them to the next step in their lives, be it our district's transition program (kids with special needs may attend public school until they are 21) or a job after high school.

This past spring semester, my co-teacher and I taught a unit on community service. We taught kids about giving back to the community, what types of community service are available, and why someone would participate in a volunteer job. Students used the internet to look up local agencies where they could possibly volunteer. I also had them present what they learned about service to the rest of the class.

In May, we went to a camp run by Boys & Girls Club. We worked for an hour and a half helping them clean up their camp. Half of the group helped to move a pile of branches off of their volleyball courts to another spot and the other group picked up litter along their fenceline. Every student helped. It was hot and it was hard work. Many complained, but everyone worked.

When we were finished, we went inside for sack lunches and a presentation about Boys & Girls Club and what they are all about. The staff there told our students that they provided about $500 worth of service that day and that it was 50 hours of work that we saved them. It was a great day.

When we got back, I emailed the staff at our school. I presented them with a definition of achievement and stated that it comes in many forms. I told my fellow teachers that on that day, my students demonstrated proficiency in community service. It struck a nerve and I received many emails back from colleagues praising our students. Then my principal asked that the photos I had taken be put on the front page of our school's website. My special education director was so proud, she asked that it be put on our district's web page as a news item, and it was! What a positive message that was shared, not to mention how proud my students were to be local celebrities on the internet!

Not only did my students learn about giving back to the community, but so did I.
As I teach, I always learn.


Michelle said...

I remember when you posted about this challenge awhile back - thanks for the update - sounds like it went great with everyone! What a great service they provided to the camp and I'm sure it instilled a sense of pride in your students!

nikkis30by30 said...

My dear cousin,

When you told me that this is what you were going to do as a profession, I never once doubted how well you would do. Never once. You have done so well in this not only professionally but personally. I am so proud of you and all that you do. Keep up the good work. And just think, one day your kids will be old enough to go with you and they too will be giving back!!!

Mimi said...

What a great idea! Well done--you all have cause to be proud.

Mad said...

Oh, this is so great. So great. I remember when you made that commitment back in December and I have looked forward to hearing the follow-up. Thanks for sharing it.

Mama said...

Way to go! We give, we grow, we glow! With or without acknowledgment. Be sure to volunteer with your kids. I failed in that area-we were too busy!

Jenifer said...

Well done and what a gift you are giving to your students. The ability to look beyond ourselves is not always given a platform, but you did it for the entire class.

Anonymous said...

Good on you, lil' Ms Action!