Thursday, December 6, 2012

Inspiring Students. Inspired Field Learning.

I have this friend who always knows everything about pop-culture. I mean EVERYTHING. So I asked him if he knew what “torquing” was. He had no idea. He said, “Dunno, sounds like a car thing.” I smiled triumphantly and explained that in fact torquing was a dance, the coolest urban expression out there.

Finally stumping my friend was pretty great. But, there was a purpose to my query—stemming from a moment in class that got me thinking about the strange parallels between booty shaking and organizational behavior/human resource management at a Jesuit University.

Students in my Managing People and Organizations class were giving a great presentation about what they’re learning from this semester’s community based learning project. For this project, students work a minimum of 15 hours in community based organizations and then write two papers and do a presentation about their experiences.

I consistently try to weave their experiences into the class topics related to organizational behavior and human resource management. For example, when we studied organizational culture, the students analyzed the culture of their field learning placements. They served as mentors for kids, visitors to the elderly, and provided food for the hungry among many other activities. In this presentation, the students shared that some of their young charges were “torquing” and it made the students realize how important they can be as mentors. Today’s youth are bombarded with media erected role models, many of whom may not be serving their best interests. My students saw an opportunity to show them another perspective.

I found their insight and initiative inspiring. And this particular group was not alone. My students often surprise me in wonderful ways. Here are a few student led insights that I think can be applied to any job and life in general.

1) Training is not enough. You have to expect the unexpected and be light on your feet when it comes. One of my students was giving out snacks to kids at volunteer afterschool care placement and a conflict ensued. He wondered- “Do I make the kids share?” or is this a real world lesson where sometimes we don’t have enough?

2) Rules are meant to be broken. One of my students was told by her placement official that she was never to assist a resident in or out of their wheelchairs. But, when she encountered an elderly gentleman who was falling, she helped him rather than watch him fall.

3) Service and play are not mutually exclusive. Sometimes service gets a bad rap and I admit that while I love to assign these projects to my students, I occasionally have to get over my own fear or discomfort when I actually go to a non-profit to serve one-on-one! But as I listen to my students I am happy and amazed by how much fun they are having. They play sports with kids, make art, carve pumpkins, listen to stories, and go to senior resident prom. In our busy lives we often forget to play. And even more so we forget that joy and inspiration can be found in the have to moments. Serve and play. It’s awesome.

Tell me Dear Readers. What have you learned from field learning, service learning or community based learning that inspires you?

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