So over the last several weeks as a family, we’ve been joining other parents, students and teachers in the heart of Paris to give out food, clothing and toiletries to the homeless. It’s an initiative that was started by an inspiring 6th grade boy, who wanted to make a difference in the lives of others who are less fortunate and struggling. It’s a wonderful example of how one person with a beautiful idea, and a desire to act, can have a profound and positive impact on a local community. It hasn’t just changed the lives of the homeless men and women that we meet, it has changed us as a family as well, as my own kids begin to internalize the responsibility that we all have to give back and to pay it forward.
The last time that we went I began to feel a small connection with some of the regulars, and I even started to engage in conversations with a few of them, which of course impacted me greatly. Seeing them on the street as you pass by is one thing, but to start truly seeing them as people, with stories and families of their own is quite another. As an educator, it’s easy for me to start thinking about what it might have been like when they were just little kids, and to begin wondering about their lives leading up to this point, and about how they got to a place where they are now living on the street. Once they were young boys and girls, going to school and playing on the playground, with friends and teachers and mothers and fathers, and dreaming about a future that was very different than their current reality. They were and still are somebody’s son and somebody’s daughter, and it is heartbreaking to see them struggling so badly…it certainly makes you want to act, and to find ways to help ease their struggle even if it’s only for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning.
All of this of course, makes me wonder about the responsibility that we have as a school to make service learning a huge part of our culture, maybe even the biggest part, so that all of our students become involved in projects and initiatives that impact the lives of others who are less fortunate. Like most international schools, we are made up of very privileged families who have the means to affect incredible change locally. At ASP we’ve always had a culture of service, and we have fantastic service projects happening all the time, which makes me proud. This year however, we’ve been working very hard to create and expand many impactful initiatives, and to align these across the divisions so that they are “school-wide” opportunities for our students and families to give back. Not a day goes by lately that I don’t walk past boxes and boxes of clothing and food donations stacked up in the foyers, or hear about student led groups raising money or making sandwiches or donating their time to find ways to give back. It’s something that seems to be gaining momentum in our school, and it feels like culturally, it’s gaining traction.
We have an opportunity this year, as we start work on our new strategic plan, to really commit to the idea of service learning, and to make it a pillar for our school and community in the years to come. We can look for ways to embed service into all that we do, and to make it an expectation, and a reality, that all our kids, teachers and families give back in one way or another to benefit and positively impact the lives of others. One student last week wrote, when asked what he wanted for the future of our school, that ASP needs to find something to really believe in and and to stand for, and through this give all students a chance to be a part of something that is larger than just themselves…well, what about service? It’s my opinion, that building an intrinsic motivation in kids to give of themselves is one of the most crucial things that we can give them as educators…talk about affecting change, not just when they graduate and head out into the world, but right now while they are in school. There are opportunities everywhere we look to make a positive difference in our world and we have a responsibility to act.
Anyway, I’m excited about the direction that we’re heading as a school with regards to service learning, and I’m thrilled that we are using the strategic plan work to think about how we can bring it even more to life in the future…exciting times for sure. Have a wonderful week everyone, only three more before the holiday, and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.
Quote of the Week…
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others
– Mahatma Gandhi
Tenille Townes – Beautiful Song and Video
Inspiring Videos –
Returning the Favor – Full Episodes
Pay It Forward – Oldie but Goodie
Related Articles –
Service Learning Websites –