Dare to Teach with Social Justice in Mind: A Surprising Experiment

I have been teaching writing courses for the last eight years and have studied the social epistemic model, cultural studies, and other ways of connecting my teaching work with current events and the community.  I have also been teaching community-based learning Capstone courses at Portland State University for the last four years and have found my rhythm.  The work is rewarding and inspiring.

But it wasn’t until this term that I decided to take the plunge and to teach my writing course as a community-based learning experience.  After becoming a faculty service-learning mentor at P.C.C., I decided that there were no more excuses and that I needed to walk the talk in all of my classrooms.  So, I revised my writing course during Spring Break and silenced all of my worries about students who wouldn’t want to volunteer, students who would drop the class because of its service-learning focus.  And I carefully crafted language and lessons to encourage this community work in an easy way — just eight hours during the term.

The surprising results so far?  Very positive students who are already signing up for community work in Portland and all across the country (the class is an online course, so I have students from everywhere).  One student said, “I was excited to hear that we have an option to ‘opt in’ to volunteer. I always want to volunteer however I’m a little shy and so I always find an excuse to not volunteer. This will give me a great excuse to get motivated!”

This is music to my ears.  And the first post in a series about this work.  Keep posted here for information on how I set up the course and what kind of language and incentives I used to get them involved!


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