Tips from Teachers: Raising Socially Responsible Teens
Teachers from De La Salle High School share ways you can help your children develop the community service habit.
De La Salle offers tips on how your child can develop habits of service to others.
Courtesy of dlshs.org
In addition to asking students what they want to do when they grow up, De La Salle High School in Concord asks them to reflect on how they want to be when they grow up.
As a Catholic, Lasallian school, De La Salle has a vision of the kind of students they want to see on graduation day and beyond. They want adults who exhibit respect for all persons, develop a life of faith, celebrate diversity, and demonstrate solidarity with the poor and a concern for justice.
Here, four teachers from De La Salle offer key ways you can help your children develop habits of service to others. Think of this as your cheat sheet to raising teenagers who have a lifelong commitment to the common good.
Provide information and opportunities for your teen to learn about the poor and justice issues in your community
Our goal at De La Salle High School is to have service learning opportunities that occur every year and in every subject in our curriculum. The hope is that regardless of which subjects students are most passionate about, they will be able to identify ways in which their interests can translate into service to others.
For example, students have the opportunity to learn about nutrition and public health while participating in a cereal drive in their Biology classes, study the concept of a living wage in Economics while struggling to put together a hypothetical family budget, and create ceramic bones that are used as part of a public memorial to victims of genocide in their Sculpture class.
With our upcoming presidential election, there is daily coverage and commentary on a variety of important justice issues. Don’t miss opportunities to talk about these issues at the dinner table, in the car, wherever the opportunity presents itself. If you are looking for fun ways to engage your teens in a discussion about the election at dinner, you might look at PBS’s LearningMedia Election 2012 website or the New York Times’ Learning Network Election 2012 website, among many others.
Remember, though your teens might not always talk, they are ALWAYS listening. Ask their opinion and share yours. Your role is not to attempt to convert your son or daughter to your political point of view, but rather to encourage their own interest and involvement in the issues while challenging them to back up what they say with a solid grasp of the facts aided by critical reflection.
Let your teen have a say in the charities that you support. Explain to them why you choose to contribute to certain causes and let them choose an organization to receive a donation from your family.
Don’t be afraid to try something new around the house—start a compost bin, participate in a Meatless Monday, hold a garage sale where all profits benefit a charity, give Fair Trade goods as gifts, recycle more. Each new activity offers another opportunity for your teen to learn something about the world around them and why their choices matter.
Get involved as a family or help your teen volunteer with a community service organization in your community
At De La Salle, our Lasallian Youth Group serves meals at Saint Anthony’s Dining Room in San Francisco, tutors elementary and middle school aged students at the Monument Crisis Center here in Concord, and at De Marillac Academy in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco on Thursdays. These are among many opportunities we give our students to serve. Selected students also participate in extended immersion programs in Salinas and San Diego. The National Honor Society also does an annual trip to People’s Park in Berkeley bringing lunches to the homeless poor who live there.
As a family, it would be relatively easy to contact and engage volunteering at Saint Anthony’s Dining Room, or Loaves and Fishes here in Contra Costa County, or St. Vincent De Paul’s Free Dining Room in Oakland.
The Monument Crisis Center also offers many ways for folks to help—by holding a neighborhood food drive to help them keep their pantry shelves stocked, or a diaper drive for the moms who can’t afford diapers for their babies and toddlers. The Crisis Center also distributes food in the mornings to their clients and you could volunteer for that.
Saint Anthony’s can be reached at - http://www.stanthonysf.org/
Loaves and Fishes can be reached at - http://www.loavesfishescc.org/
Saint Vincent de Paul can be reached at - http://www.svdp-alameda.org/
Monument Crisis Center can be reached at - http://monumentcrisiscenter.org/
You could even have a family trip, perhaps during spring or summer break, with an extended service immersion. Contact the agencies we work with in Salinas and San Diego to see what service activities they have to offer.
In Salinas we serve meals at Dorothy’s Place, which can be contacted at: http://www.dorothysplace.org/
In San Diego, we work with the people at Border Angels who advocate on behalf of immigrants. Border Angels can be contacted at: http://www.borderangels.org/
REFLECTION AND PRAYER
Provide time, opportunities, and structure to help teens reflect and pray
At De La Salle—being a Roman Catholic School—prayer and reflection time happen every day in every class. In each service group and in classes engaged in Service Learning, there is dedicated time spent reflecting before, during, and after community service experiences.
The reflection and prayer is what distinguishes service learning from volunteering. Our service experiences are connected explicitly to our faith and De La Salle students routinely reflect on questions like, “How is God calling us to help?” and “How has this experience impacted my relationship with God and others?” Whether your family has a religious tradition or not, reflection is important to help teens connect what they experience during the service activity to the formal knowledge and skills they acquire in the classroom.
Reflection and prayer help teens develop communication and problem solving skills, challenge their pre-conceived notions and biases, and engage in high level thinking as they look for the root causes of complex issues, and deepen their faith.
Before service activities, gather your family together to ask some “pre-service” questions to help frame the activity and prepare emotionally for the experience. This could be done at a meal beforehand or even in the car on the way to the service site. The questions below may serve as a starting point.
Why are we doing this?
What is the problem or community need we are addressing, and why does it exist?
Why are we needed?
What do we believe about the people we are serving?
What fears do we have?
What do we hope to learn from this experience about ourselves and the world?
Once the service experience has been completed—this is best done the same day as the service was done—gather as a family and spend time together reflecting on some “post-service” questions. Challenge teens to go beyond describing the experience and ask them to interpret and explain what they have experienced and why. The drive home can be a great place to start asking these questions.
What did we see, hear, smell, touch, or taste?
How do we feel after this experience?
What did we learn about ourselves and our community?
What values, opinions, and beliefs were challenged or deepened by this experience?
What should we do in the future now that we have experienced this?
What is the most important thing we learned today?
Four teachers at De La Salle worked together to compile this piece. Elizabeth Berkes, Ph.D., Vice Principal for Faculty Development; Roger Hassett, Director of Campus Ministry; Scott Drain, Service Learning Coordinator; Brother Robert J. Wickman, F.S.C., Principal