quote of the day, v. IV

'Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness,
humility, gentleness and patience.'

- Colossians 3:12

[Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and especially patience are characteristics that will benefit all of us as we depart for our placements in the next few days... All the best!]
Photo Credit: Adbusters


thank you, ruby ku.

Last week, I made the mistake of meeting Ruby at Starbucks/Chapters to catch up. Since then, I've been unable to focus or concentrate on my exams and overdue assignments (not that I was concentrating all that well on them in the first place).
We talked about partnering social action with various aspects of design, creative forms of consulting, and becoming 'social consultants' (Google that, I dare you... spoiler alert: there's nothing relevant!).
To the right is Ruby's interpretation of me and a few of the random things I would love to pursue (a small sampling, if you will). From this scrap of paper came some serious ideas and inspiration for the future - which is why I felt the need to share this here. Taking time out on a Sunday night in the midst of exam and piles of 'to do's wasn't a mistake, I'm looking back at it as a step forward.


this matters. and here's why.

"I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbour. Do you know your next door neighbour?"
- Mother Teresa

    In a nutshell, this quote is why service learning matters to me. How many of us actually know our neighbours? I hardly know the two girls in the apartment upstairs apartment of my own house, let alone the family who recently moved in next door, or the other students living on my street. Neighbourhoods are not what they used to be. It seems that our communities are more private than in the past, and that people are too busy to make deeper personal connections. For example - we no longer chat with the tellers at the bank; we have ATMs that are more convenient. We can ignore the cashier at the grocery store; the self check-out is a faster option.

    Service learning, according to the Beyond Borders brochures, aims to prepare students as global citizens in a globalized world, effect social change, and make use of our abilities and education in service to others. But this final reflection requires me to answer 'so what?'. Those ideals are positive, but don't say much about what I've learned this term or why I'm a participant.

    I'm a big fan of lists. And so, inspired by the infamous top ten lists of David Letterman, I will convince you of the value and importance of service learning.

    top ten reasons why service learning matters:

  1. it holds us accountable. Service learning allows us to (pardon the cliche) "practice Italicwhat we preach." Through service learning, we are taking ownership of our education by applying what we have learned in a wide variety of circumstances.

  2. it encourages (and requires) dialogue. Through service learning opportunities, we enter into relationships with others. Asking questions, searching for answers, we are constantly in conversation.

  3. you don't actually need a passport. Turns out, you don't have to travel overseas to participate in service learning. It can be as simple as spending a few hours a week volunteering with a local organization (i.e., the Working Centre).

  4. mutual empowerment. We are not sent to various international placements with a plan or a solution, to push our Western way of living onto a developing nation. We might not be all that helpful. Through building new relationships in a new culture, we are all on the same footing.

  5. endless possibilities. Service learning is not tied down to any one location or action, it does not have an agenda, it does not have an expiry date. It could be ten hours, or ten months, it could be a lifelong process.

  6. it is frustrating. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. It means you're tackling something strange and unfamiliar, and in the meantime, new skills or ideas are likely developed. "It is when you are frustrated, that you really learn." - Joanne Benham Rennick.

  7. it lays foundations for the future. Talking to Myroslaw was encouraging for Jessica and I, because we are building on success of the past. Five years ago, there were no volunteers at the Internat. Since then, numerous alumni have spent their summer months caring for the girls of this Ukrainian orphanage. In five more years, who knows - the university students of Ternopil may be in partnership with the Internat, working towards minimizing the strong stigma against the disabled. We may not be able to see the impact of our actions, but each individual action is a small step forward. Change is not impossible.

  8. exploration of the unknown. We live in world full of beauty, creativity, and diversity - Henry Miller said it best: "Develop an interest in life as you see it, the people, things, literature, music – the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself." –Henry Miller.

  9. the lost art of facilitation. Facilitation is an idea explored in Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and is an incredibly valuable skill to possess. We do not use the skill of facilitation nearly as much as we should, and we're really not that great at it. We do not practice it enough to become good, not to mention great, at it. Service learning opportunities allow us to develop facilitation skills throughout authentic education experiences.

  10. in the end, it all adds up. I've previously written about the power of our ordinary actions. Throughout the fall term, Scott warned us that we would not really have a significant impact on the communities that we will be serving this summer. I beg to differ. While things may not be profoundly different once we leave in August, I still think that whatever we accomplish in our various placements, no matter how small or insignificant our achievements are, will be worthwhile. If it only serves to teach us a lesson that we will carry with us, or if our visit only gives a disabled child the chance to venture outside of the Internat for the first time, I'd say that alone is a small victory. Baby steps... baby steps!


to the great unknown!

well, guys - the end is near.
yet the end of this semester brings beginnings and new adventures.
we will be sent off into the world in mere weeks.
we have no idea what we're in for.
but, we've come this far...
together, we have survived Plagues and Pedagogies,
presentations and pancake breakfasts.
I hope and pray that:
... we all remain safe and sound throughout our placements
(Katie, invest in a leash for John. Don't lose him.).
... our eyes remain open to absolutely everything about our
new surroundings. Be fully present!
... we experience enough frustration to learn,
grow, and stretch beyond our limits.
... we experience enough joy and excitement
to make all those frustrations well worth it.
... we are amazed by how big this world really is.
... we remember that we're all in this together.


we've been head faked by Joanne.

In Randy Pausch's memoir, The Last Lecture, he asks his audience to pay close enough attention to figure out the 'head fake.' Now, I don't exactly read Sports Illustrated every week, or even visit tsn.com regularly (with the exception of the recent World Figure Skating Championships held in Los Angelos!). But from what I understand, a 'head fake' is a term associated with basketball, something about tricking your opponent - acting as if you are going to throw or pass the ball one way, but in the end, choosing a different direction than expected.

To the class of 08/09 - Joanne has used this trickery and deceit on us as a class. She has 'head-faked' us. She had sent us all the RS 383 syllabus back in December, before the winter semester had even started... sending us into little bouts of worry, as we only had about four or five actual classes - and she expected us to complete a minimum of 18 hours of volounteering!? Didn't she realize that we were busy students with heavy workloads?! AND what on earth was this 'blogging' she spoke of!? All of it was utterly bizarre; it was a course outline that was unheard of as it did not have a required textbook, regularly scheduled classes, or even any scheduled midterms or exams. No final? No structure? What was she thinking!?

Despite the fears of disorganization and pure chaos, and only attending five classes, RS 383 has been something else. Having been forced to read Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Scott Kline last fall, it is ridiculous that noone saw through Joanne's slick scheme earlier. After reading Marissa's latest epiphany, it all made sense! Each of the required RS courses of the Beyond Borders program applied Freire's theories of authentic education. Rather than simply 'depositing' information into their students (the general 'banking' method seen in the educational institutions of today), both Scott and Joanne made use of the interactional teaching/pedagogical learning approach that Freire writes of.

Some key concepts that are found within Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed include:

  1. "Authentic education will involve dialogue between the student and teacher." This broadens our world context and prospective, and is more than just a deposit of new information.

  2. "The importance of mutual respect and cooperation." Joanne allowed us to take ownership of this class, as we explored the Working Centre and the various volounteer opportunities found there, as well as through the presentations and discussions regaring our placement organizations and host countries. As a class, we took accountability for sharing our experiences (thanks to our handy blogs) and throughout fundraising ventures together.

  3. "Radical interaction." This actually took place, on different occasions (ask Ruby for footage of Joanne letting loose WITH... yes, with... her students - the SJU Formal was a night to remember).

  4. "Liberation from an objective relationship to a subjective relationship." In an objective relationship, there is no dialogue or engagement, things are defined for you, whereas in a subjective relationship, there is conversation, mutual dialogue, and actions that take place in a beneficial process.

As for the 'head fake,' we were all expecting a typical class with regular readings, assignments, and lectures. Scott and Joanne would tell us what we needed to know, and we would memorize the theories we were taught. Yet the unstructured format of both the fall and winter RS classes taught me more than I've learned in past lectures and average classes. I value the lessons learned regarding respect, cooperation, interaction, dialogue, and engagement. I can see the benefits of authentic education, and the powerful impact that relationships can have on our communities.