The Empowering Role of Service Learning in the Preparation of Teacher
Irma Guadarrama University of Houston
It is a hot, summer morning in Tetiz, Yucatán, México where 17 university students engage in a service learning and research project. I walk from our field house to the nearby primaria to check on its availability where the students will hold their English classes. The warm breeze sends gentle ripples through the tropical foliage characteristic of a Mayan town with a few moderrilike houses amidst the multiplicity of round, clay or cement, thatch-roof homes. The two rows of block-cement classrooms near the zócalo, or the center of town are used by children in this 5,000 Mayan/Spanish-speaking community just 35 miles from the capital city of Mérida. The university-based students, most of them students of bilingual education or English as second language, serve as maestros de inglés to over 400 students of all ages. At the school, early-bird students carefully make their way to the classrooms and wait patiently for their classmates and their teachers. Many of the girls wear their traditional smock or huipil, with beautifully embroidered edges. The boys wear American-influenced pants and T-shirts, but just about everyone wears plastic or leather sandals, the practical shoe for the hot, humid weather. When the maestros arrive, the entire school seems to awaken as eager students pour into the classrooms.
Even though English classes are the order of the day, the focus of the program is based on an exchange of English for Maya. Mayan lessons for the maestros, dispersed throughout the day, are usually less formal and more spontaneous. In the classroom, the teachers integrate