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Journal Requirements for EH 228

John Tatter
Professor of English

Your journal (a French word meaning "daily") is separate from both your class notes and your written responses to the study questions posted on our class Web pages. Your journal is the written link between the things you read and the activities you pursue outside of class. Your journal thus serves as a resource to help you participate more effectively in class discussion and help you develop your papers.

At its most basic, your journal is your record of your service experiences. Within 48 hours after each service-learning session, you are required to respond in writing to what you experienced. Your service journal entries will be in the form of Word documents attached to an e-mail message to me. Before writing, it may be very helpful to talk about each session with other members of your service team, but then you should go off by yourself and write alone.

Your journal is far more than a record of your experiences, however. Rather than a diary of events, what I am asking you to complete is a series of critical reflection exercises. All of us reflect on incidents in our past. That is, we look back and remember what happened. But I want you to look back on each of your service experiences with a critical eye. By critical I don't mean taking a negative view. Instead, I mean taking an analytic view. I want you to address not only the "what?" of what happened but also the "so what?"

To get to the "so what?" of your experience, each entry in your jounral should follow the DEAL format--that is, you should first Describe what happened during your service session without commenting on it, then Examine the experience through the lens of gender, race, or socio-economic class and in relation to your readings for this course, and finally Articulate what you Learned from the experience. This final section will require you to complete four statements: 1) I learned that _____, 2) I learned this when _____, 3) What I learned matters because _____, and 4) In light of this learning I will _____.

As clues for things you might have learned during your service session, go back to the Examine section of your journal entry and think about the connections between your reading and your interaction with the students you serve at Urban Kids. For example, you might have examined the difference between the Birmingham-Southern campus and the West End neighborhood, pointing out a parallel to the contrasting settings in Bambara's "The Lesson" and how they show how large a gap there was between African-Americans and affluent white Americans during the 1960s and 1970s. Perhaps you noticed a contrast of settings between the school you attended and and what you learn about the schools that the Urban Kids attend; if so, you could relate that contrast to the one that Sylvia and her friends felt between their neighborhood and the toy store on Fifth Avenue. For another example from the same story, you might have examined the narrowness of your own experience in the West End and compared it to the narrow point of view of the narrator, Sylvia, who thinks that all "white folks" are "crazy" based on her one encounter with a white woman wearing a fur coat during the summer. Sylvia's narrow point of view, as unfair as it might seem to a white reader, is very similar to the narrow point of view that many affluent people have had about those living in poverty -- seeing someone at a freeway exit holding a sign saying "Hungry, Please Help," they have assumed that poor people are basically lazy and would rather beg than work. Sylvia's "lesson" about "white folks" may be a parallel lesson for the the affluent about "poor folks."

Given the specific directions above, I expect that you will write for no less than a half-hour in each case. Sometimes you will write much more. Remember that details are the heart of good writing. You will not make yourself understood to others, and you will not be able to re-read the journal five years from now and understand yourself, if you do not begin each journal entry with specific examples and go on to explain what you learned in enough detail to enable a total stranger to understand you. Instead of asking how long a journal entry has to be (a question you might have asked in high school), ask yourself if you have explained your experience well enough that a person reading your journal who is not a member of this class would be able to grasp what you have learned, how you learned it, and why the lesson was important.

Because you visit Urban Kids and the Cafe eight times, I expect to see at least eight entries from you over the course of the term. The grade for each entry will be based on how well it fulfills the DEAL format. The rubric I use to grade each entry is available to you on our class Moodle site and can help de-mystify your grade as well as serve as a guide for you in writing your journal.

John D. Tatter, Birmingham-Southern College,