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Step 6 - Service Learning Etiquette

By offering you a service-learning opportunity with an agency, event, or organization, the supervisor is telling you that you are taken seriously.  You need to take yourself and the commitments you make seriously as well. The following information is good service-learning (and workplace) etiquette:

Be reliable.   Show up on time, stay the number of hours you agreed to stay and do the job you have agreed to do.  The agency or event will be depending on the work you do (and you might want to use your supervisor as a reference in the future!). 

Call your supervisor, if you cannot honor your commitment.   At most sites you will be treated as part of the staff, and the agency will depend on you to be there as agreed.  If you cannot work, call your supervisor in time that other arrangements can be made, if necessary. 

Plan ahead.   There is rhythm to student life, and the times during the semester that you will be overloaded with schoolwork are pretty predictable.  If you know that you will need time off during midterms and finals to study or if you know there are projects and papers that will claim your time, let your supervisor know in advance.  Agencies understand that students have school commitments and are willing to work with you.  Respect that fact and plan ahead so that your agency is not left in the lurch by your "last minute" crises.

Dress appropriately.   If you are uncertain how you should dress for your service activities, ask your supervisor.  As a rule of thumb, short shorts, spaghetti straps, muscle shirts, T-shirts with suggestive logos or wording, flip-flops, and other very casual clothing is not appropriate at most service sites.  Some sites, such as public schools, will have fairly strict dress codes, other sites may encourage casual dress.

Tattoos and body piercing.   Some sites may not allow visible tattoos or body piercing.  If this could be a factor, discuss site policies at your initial interview. 

Follow established behavior patterns.   Again, check with your supervisor and tailor your behavior to your situation.

CONFIDENTIALITY IS CRITICAL.  The issue of confidentiality cannot be stressed too often.  The service-learning experiences you choose may involve clients with interesting histories or problems.  Client information is never yours to share, unless it is done in a general way in the confines of the classroom in a manner that will not identify individual clients.  Nothing will make our service-learning program, and you, lose credibility faster than sharing information that should remain confidential.

Share your talents.   Every student has the potential to make a significant impact through service-learning experiences.  Share your talents and as you work, think about the ways your classroom learning applies to real world issues.  (Remember, however, if there were an easy answer to every issue, your services wouldn't be needed!).

Open yourself to the learning opportunities provided.  True service-learning experiences involve reciprocal interactions between you and the individuals served at your service site.  Before you begin, examine your preconceived ideas about the site and its clients. If you have any, put them aside and begin with an open mind and open heart.

Also consider how you feel about your role in the service-learning process. If you are too intensely involved in the "helping" role, you may miss many opportunities to learn.   If you view service as something done with clients, rather than something done to or for clients, the learning value of your service-learning experience is enhanced.


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