Upper School students attend weekly seminar classes aimed at enriching their knowledge about and developing skills in service and leadership. Yet, students spend the bulk of their time sitting in the classroom passively listening to TED Talks or watching PowerPoints. It is important to learn the most effective and conscious way to serve others. But, it begs the question, why don’t we actually do service during that time?
This month, NCS 10th grade students will embark on a 2-3 session online research project. None of these hours are currently allotted to completing hands-on service. The solution isn’t necessarily to completely ditch the current learning module. Instead of each student researching a different topic (i.e., foster care), the class could research a facet of foster care including age, race, and gender demographics and present it to classmates. The next two classes could be spent actively serving based on the knowledge we acquired. For example, time could be spent making care packages for children in the foster care system. Simply put, could the time allotted to strictly research actually be used to impact the issue itself?
One of the biggest arguments for not continuing foreign service trips was that they were performative and didn’t aid the targeted community. The system that is taught in CELS Seminar is hypocritical as we have a target community, the fourth-grade students at Excel Academy. Yet, NCS students spend less than an hour with their buddies and are urged to submit photos they’ve taken to be posted on NCS social media. That is virtually the only experience 10th grade students have with service throughout the school year. While this is not inherently unethical, if students were able to engage in additional school-sponsored service, then posting photos could come across as more genuine, instead of hypocritical.
Students have time built into their schedules in which they could engage in hands-on service, yet, programming rarely allows them to. So, if dedicating a semester to only CELS is too hard for staff to manage while also balancing other community service activities and fellowships, students could engage in other active, and just as meaningful, activities during their seminar time. NCS has an abundance of resources on campus that could transform these alternative sessions to aid students in their life beyond NCS. For example, a member of the faculty could teach students how to write a cover-letter to apply to a job, or how to create an annual budget given a yearly salary, even how to change a tire. Having weekly seminar blocks cut out specifically in the schedule must be further maximized past being passive in the classroom.
Students should feel purpose to attend and engage in CELS class. They should be able to do service during their seminar block instead of strictly learning about the concepts. There is an effective way to find a happy medium between the two, but right now we’re not there. Simply put: it doesn’t make sense to have dedicated time to improving leadership in service for students and, yet, never serve.
Note: The author of this article elected to stay anonymous because they did not feel comfortable expressing their critiques about the National Cathedral School with their name attached. At The Exchanged, we strive to promote free discourse and discourage anonymity when possible. Yet, anonymity is better than no discourse at all, so writers have the choice to stay anonymous.