Service-Learning Experience Journals

Category: Academic | Writing
A collection of journal assignments completed as part of an MSU service-learning experience at Pattengill elementary school's ESL class.

What is Service-Learning?

Michigan State University embraces community-engaged learning as a viable and vital method of fulfilling MSU’s land-grant to world-grant mission, and supports academic community-engaged learning as a teaching pedagogy. This community-engaged learning is called Service-Learning.

Students who participate in community-engaged learning contribute to the public good of local, national, and international communities via co-curricular and academic placements. They also enrich their academic knowledge with real-world applications and develop personal, professional, leadership, and citizenship skills.

Journal Assignment 1
September 28

Pre- Service Learning Journal

As you think about service-learning, what do you expect the student(s) you will work with to be like? What do you imagine the school that you work in will be like? What do you imagine the teachers with whom you work will be like?
I think that this service-learning experience won’t be anything new to me. I have worked in schools, youth facilities, and summer day camps. I think that the students will most likely be very active because I will be with them after their lunch period during the last two class periods. I am not quite sure what the teachers will be like, because I have never been to the schools here in East Lansing, and I am not familiar with the school system.

What do you think you will accomplish during this experience? What do you think you will learn from and through the experience?
I think that through this experience I can assist the students in their learning and gain a better understanding of how the students interact with each other in their vastly diverse learning environment.

What concerns, worries or fears about the experience do you currently have?
Currently, I do not have any fears, but I do wonder about the interaction of the students.

Journal Assignment 2

Document your first meeting with your student. Describe your student with as much detail as you can.

  1. What kinds of behaviors, talk, etc. did you notice the student engage in during your work with her or him? How would you describe your own reactions to the student? Did anything surprise you? Did anything confirm your expectations? What questions about the student(s) did your visit prompt? What can you imagine exploring in the upcoming weeks?
  2. What were your first impressions of the site? Use details to describe the school, classroom or organization where you worked with the student. How does the site or school compare to your own schooling or prior experiences? What kinds of questions about the school or site did the visit raise for you? Look up the school or the site on the Internet. What kinds of information do you think are relevant to your work there? Identify this information and explain why you think this is relevant to your tutoring experience.
  3. How can you connect your initial visit and your observations to the course readings to date?

When I first arrived at Pattengill, my first thought was, “Wow.” The school is really big, kind of like my old high school. There are a lot of windows and rooms all around the building. My first meeting with my students was very relaxed. When I first arrived at the class, the students were very hyper and loud, but they all were seated. The students were all spread out around the room as far as their ethnicity/race, but all of the ESL students were all sitting together in the back corner of the classroom.
On the first day, I didn’t work with any students one-on-one, and I could tell that I might not be working with any of the first group of students one-on-one at all, because it took so much to control them, seeing that they had just gotten out of lunch. I did, however, get the chance to help three students finish a class assignment that was incomplete.

When I looked up Pattengill on the Internet, I saw a really disturbing review. Most people talked about how wonderful the school is, but this one particular review talked about how Pattengill wasn’t all it was talked up to be. The problems that regular urban schools faced; gangs, teacher propositioning, vandalism, vulgarity, bullies, etc; were just as visible in this school as well as others.

I can honestly say that being in Pattengill, the children are given a lot of freedom in the classroom, and more structure in the hallways. The children are allowed to be free until the teacher wants to get a point across, but once they try to bring down the chaos, it’s next to impossible.

Journal Assignment 3

  1. What do you notice about the ways that students group themselves in terms of their own social identities? (Think about race, gender, sexual orientation, language, ability.) When does this occur? Do the students act differently when they are in these groups – in terms of when they are in the broader group and in terms of how the groups act in relation to each other? Describe these differences? How do you think these groupings shape the ways in which the students learn?
  2. What do you notice about ways that students are grouped by the teacher? Are there patterns in terms of race, gender, and language? How do these patterns intersect with notions of “ability?” What about issues of discipline? Are there ways in which students are disciplined differently because of their social identities? Describe this. What about differences in ways that teachers call upon and/or interact with students?
  3. What do you notice about how different social groups are represented, made visible or invisible in the site? Here, it is important to look at things like the books available, posters and things on the walls, and the content of the curriculum or materials that the students are working with? Which groups are visible and how are they represented? Which groups are invisible? How do you think this shapes your students’ learning?
  4. What do you notice about your own interactions and responses to the students in terms of your own social identities? When do you experience feelings of being different from your students? When do you experience feelings of being similar to your students? How does this shape the ways in which you interact with and respond to your students?

In my classroom, the students are allowed to sit wherever they like. The students mainly sit with their friends, but as far as race they are all a mixture. All of the ESL students naturally sit together, because they use each other to get by in the class. The louder students tend to sit together, and they seem to be the ones that run the classroom if you will, but the boys are typically the ones to sit together, and the girls typically sit together also.

Because my interactions with the students are very limited, it is very hard to observe them directly. Most of my observations are from a distant view, and it is very hard to tell what interactions the students are having for specific reasons. Next week, I will have the opportunity to work with a few students with the teacher’s permission, and I will observe more closely their interactions.

Site Journal 1
October 5, 2009

Today at Pattengill, it was very slow, as far as my activity. I didn’t get to do too much with the students. When I first arrived, it was a little awkward for the children, because they thought that I was one of the students. But it was a learning experience.
When I started to work with the students, I had to take 4 boys in a “quiet room” and just monitor them while they finish an open-book quiz that was incomplete. With that part of my day, I didn’t have any real task to complete. I just stood there while the boys finished their quizzes, and afterwards take them back into the classrooms. I did find it interesting that the boys hadn’t finished an open-book quiz, and when they had the opportunity to finish it, they still couldn’t answer the questions. To me, that just showed how much they had been taking advantage of their classroom and study skills time that was scheduled.

Site Journal 2
October 12, 2009

Today when I went to the school, for my second interaction, I worked with only the ESL students. For me, this was very challenging, because I couldn’t understand them and they couldn’t understand me either. The entire time I was helping them with their assignments I had to try my best to direct them towards answers rather than outwardly telling them the correct answers, and that was a challenge within itself. Out of the group of 5, they seemed to work in a chain. The one girl out of them is the only one who somewhat got the material being taught, but the boys copied each other in order to get their work done. So, one boy would copy the girl, and another boy copied that boy, and so on. With them working like this, I really couldn’t’ help them with their work that much. They had developed a survival strategy or finishing their work, and with me there I seemed to interfere with their process. This was weird to me because besides the teacher, there was an ESL tutor in the classroom that just went along with their flow.

Site Journal 3
October 19, 2009

Today, I didn’t get to do much at all. I went to tutor in a class called Study Skills. In this class, the students are supposed to bring in homework and other assignments from other classes and work on them for 50 minutes. Today, there were about 10 students in this class, I assumed that there was supposed to be more, and I just sort of floated around the classroom, and watched the students play with each other. Only one or two of them actually had something to do, and that was to write one paragraph on how to behave in the lunchroom because they got in trouble.

Site Journal 4
October 26, 2009

Today was also very slow for me. Once again I didn’t get to do much besides help the ESL students work on their assignments. Working with the ESL students tends to be a very challenging job, because we can barely understand each other. When I am teaching them I always seem to find myself trying to use my hands to talk and other things to make it easier, but that barely worked. It is very hard trying to help them with out giving them the answers, because they never finish their assignments because they don’t understand.

Site Journal 5
November 2, 2009

Today I came into the classroom prepared to just go and help out the ESL students, only to find out that Mrs. Taylor wasn’t going to be tacking this class anymore. So instead of helping the ESL students with their work, I helped Mrs. Taylor by passing out progress reports, and helping her direct the class in packing up their stuff to go to the new teacher. She had all of the assignments for the rest of their semester all piled up and ready to go; the new teacher just had to follow the lesson plan and ass them out when it was time.

After everyone was all packed up, we walked the students downstairs to their new teacher. She was a very stern person, and even that couldn’t keep these children completely in line. While I stood at the front of the class, waiting on her to tell me where she wanted me to help I could see the students all over the place. After she took attendance, she told me to pass out the assignment to the students and go and help the ESL students, just as I had planned on earlier.

Site Journal 6
November 9, 2009

Today, I didn’t go to service learning. I am going to make up the time on another day.

Site Journal 7
November 16, 2009

Today, I didn’t get to do anything at all. Mrs. Taylor was out today, and there was a substitute teacher. Ultimately because he couldn’t figure out what to do with me, I got sent home early.

Site Journal 8
November 23, 2009

Today, I was bounced around a little bit. Instead of going to Mrs. Taylor’s class, I was sent to work with another teacher who taught math. She didn’t have much for me to do, but she did ask my to walk around the classroom and help the students that needed help completing their JumpStart Assignments. No one needed any real help; the boys were too busy playing with the girls and being disruptive in many ways, and the girls just sat around the tables doing their assignments and gossiping about each other.

After the JumpStart time was over, I was given a student to work with. She had two assignments that needed to complete two assignments from a day that she missed. They were fairly simple. I didn’t have to do anything but sit while she completed them. She asked maybe one or two questions but that was it. She had already known what to do.

Site Journal 9
November 30, 2009

Today, I ended up going back to the math class from last week. The experience was pretty much the same, only this time I worked with another girl, who also had missing assignments to complete, while I made sure that she also finished the assignment for today as well; multitasking was the highlight of the day.

Site Journal 10
December 7, 2009

Today, I got sent to a different math class. Mrs. Taylor had nothing for me to do today, so instead, we walked the halls, door to door, asking if anyone needed a tutor to help out for the day. Once no one needed my help on the third floor, we went to the second floor, where we went to Mr. Henson. He teaches a 7th-grade math class. Immediately when I walked into his classroom, he knew what he needed me to do, so he told me to put my things away and grab a math book and meet him back at the door.

While he took attendance, he rallied up about four students and instructed them to line up at the door. He told me he wanted me to help them complete a 25-question homework assignment on fractions and decimals and if they completed it to teach them the next lesson in the book. For the group, there was one boy and three girls; this was going to be very interesting.
When we walked into the “quiet room”, everyone took their seats. I opened my book to the assigned page, and I started to talk. I wrote problem down on the board, showing them the necessary steps they needed to take to complete each problem.

They were all very interactive and loved working with me. They said that I was a better teacher than Mr. Henson because they understood what to do better. After helping them with 4 problems out of each of the three sections, I told them to complete the other 13 problems on their own and to ask me if they needed help. By the end of the session, only the boy had completed his assignment, and the girls were only half was through. Although they didn’t finish, they got a lot done with me today.

After that group left out, another class came in. This time, Mr. Henson did the same thing. After their BoardWork, he assigned me five other students, which were going to be working on the exact same thing as my previous group. When we got into the “quiet room”, nothing was the same. As I tried helped them with their assignments, I could tell it was going to be very challenging. During our entire session, this group was completely non-responsive, they didn’t want to be here with me, but they also didn’t want to be in the classroom. By the end of our session, absolutely nothing was accomplished. I had to work through every simple problem with the, and even then they still didn’t finish or understand the problems.

Today was my most productive day yet.

Site Journal 11
December 11, 2009

Today is my last day at Pattengill. This will be the day that I make up for the two days time that was lost previously. I had high hopes that I really got to do something worthwhile today.

When I arrived at the classroom door, I saw all of the students all over the place. I knew there was someone that needed to be helped. After I put my stuff away, I walked to the front of the classroom, all of the boys in the class were in awe, and the girls thought that I was a new student. Mrs. Taylor was standing at the front of the class giving directions on the assignment that they needed to complete. After she finished explaining, she gave me a student to work with. I had to help her with a rock cycle diagram that they had to draw and learn. After she finished drawing the diagram, we worked together with putting in the information. We had fun. After she was completely finished, she wanted to sit and talk. She wanted to talk about how her boyfriend broke up and wasn’t talking to her anymore. After that, the other girls wanted to talk to me also. They wanted to talk about what they wanted to be when they grew up. It was nice to finally have a chance to interact with the students. I could hear the ambition in their voices as we all talked about our futures. After our talk, they went to lunch. While they were at lunch, it was break time for Mrs. Taylor. During that time we sat and talked about my service-learning experience, and what went on throughout the days, while she completes mines and several other service-learning evaluations. She really enjoyed having me there, and although I didn’t get to do as much as I had hoped, I loved being there.

Desiree' M. Slaughter

Desiree' M. Slaughter

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