From a Distance: Service-Learning and Social Justice
Rahima C. Wade University of Iowa
Let us plead with ourselves to live in a way which will not deprive other living beings of air, water, food, shelter, or the chance to live.
-- Thich Nhat Hahn ( 1991, p. 39)
This chapter is the story of my personal journey in attempting to live and work in ways that enhance the quality of others' lives. It is a story of service and social justice, of hope and despair, of success and failing, and, most of all, of questioning and seeking. I write this story now, after 6 years of coordinating service-learning programs at the state and national levels, because I stand at a crossroads in my journey. I am too often disappointed in my own service-learning practice and the projects I see in public school classrooms and I question my own and others' motivations for engaging in service.
It is time in my evolution as a teacher educator and as a person to face these shortcomings in my work and to reexamine my commitment to and efforts toward working for a better world. The focus of this chapter is a personal exploration of my life and struggles as a White teacher educator and thus, should provide opportunities for other academics to reflect on their own work in regard to social justice issues. Teacher educators have written extensively about the importance of reflection and personal narratives. This chapter is my attempt to model these practices; I hope that others reading this will find inspiration here to reflect on their own academic and personal journeys as well.