Twerking and Other Interesting Insights gained through Community Based Learning

150 150 Ellen Ensher
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Community Based Learning and TwerkingWhat does twerking have to do with a service learning project that emphasizes learning about organizational behavior and human resource management at a Jesuit University? In case you missed this latest pop cultural phenomenon, twerking is kind of like booty-based dirty dancing (this is my own description after watching the YouTube Walmart parody so apologies to the urban dictionary).

I learned this yesterday when my students in my Managing People and Organizations class were giving a great presentation about what they’re learning from this semester’s community based learning project. For this project, students work a minimum of 15 hours in community based organizations and then write two papers and do a presentation about their experiences. All semester long, I integrate their experiences into the class topics related to organizational behavior and human resource management. For example, when we studied organizational culture, the students analyzed the culture of their field learning placements. They served as mentors for kids, visitors to the elderly, and provided food for the hungry among many other activities. In this presentation, the students were sharing that some of their young charges were “twerking” and it made the students realize how important they can be as role models. Young kids are inundated with all sorts of role models from the media that may not be serving their best interests and perhaps the students might show them another perspective.

My students inspire me. Here are a few things I am learning so far as I watch them discuss their field learning assignments. I think these are insights that can be applied to any job and life in general.

1) Expect the unexpected and training doesn’t always prepare you for every challenge. One of my students was giving out snacks to kids at volunteer afterschool care placement and conflict ensued. He wondered- “Do I make the kids share?” or is this a real world lesson where sometimes we don’t have enough?

2) Break the rules sometimes. One of my students was told by her placement to never assist a resident in or out of their wheelchairs but she encountered one elderly gentleman who was falling … she helped him out rather than watch him fall.

3) Service and play are not mutually exclusive. Sometimes service gets a bad rap and I confess that while I love to assign these projects to my students, I sometimes have to overcome my own fear or discomfort when I actually get my non-twerking booty down to a non-profit to serve one-on-one! But as I listen to my students I am struck by how much fun they are having. They play basketball with kids, make art, carve pumpkins, listen to stories, and go to senior resident prom. In our busy lives, we forget to play and if we can serve and play, that is both awesome and awe inspiring.

What have you learned from field learning, service learning or community based learning that inspires you?