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.