Last week for spring break I went on a service trip to Costa Rica. I was excited but apprehensive about the trip. Anytime something is coined a service trip that makes me uneasy, especially when international travel is included. Intention and motivation can easily be questionable on an international service trip. I often wondered before we left, are we going to Costa Rica to actually serve or as a glorified vacation. Also are we coming as welcomed help, or will we just be in the way.
Overall the trip was a mixed bag. There was a large majority of people on the trip who were only there to post on instagram that they were on a service trip. It hurt to watch them take constant pictures of the people they were serving. This was especially sad when they took pictures of people who could not use their own voices to object such as children, and handicapped people. The idea that service is something flashy and picture worthy, is something I do not really buy into. To me there is a big difference between taking a picture for personal memories, perhaps on the last day of a service trip, and constantly taking and posting pictures on the work site. At some points it seemed like a service group was actually needed, but at others I wondered if we were just given busy work. We had to paint hallways in a school, sometimes i wondered if these hallways needed to be painted or if the school was just trying to give us something to do. One of the most important thing I learned was how important intention is but even more so actions are. In reflections at night the people who were constantly on instagram talked about how much they want to serve others. Actions and intention are more important than words.
How does this connect to teaching? Intention and actions are very important to teaching as well. One of the most common responses when someone asks a future teacher, why they want to teach is that they want to help people. The truth is all jobs help people in some way. The janitor at UNC helps people by keeping things clean, a doctor helps people, an accountants job also serves people. I think their has to be a deeper or more expansive reason to want to teach. Like a passion for learning, or being a positive influence. Also like service real hard working teachers are not flashy. There is nothing glamorous about lunch/recess duty, or staying late nights at school to tutor or monitor a club. These things are the things that I think matter the most. The challenging trials that separate a good and great teacher. I want to be the type of teacher who is willing to go the extra mile, but not seek out extra recognition. Doing things just for praise is a slippery slop because sometimes praise does not come. I am grateful for experiences such as Costa Rica because they teach me how to serve the right way, and how to become the teacher I want to be.