On evenings and weekends, I’m often immersed in my own service-learning projects. I’m part of the PTO of my son’s elementary school. I’m active in a group working for improved public schools in my city, and—not education-related but definitely community-building—I’m creating a community garden with neighbors. Added to work and family time, all of these commitments sometimes seem maddening. Where is that 25th hour of the day and that eighth day of the week (not to mention the whole extra month I sometimes wish I could have)? But even as I refine the balancing act, I value the learning and connections such community-oriented work brings. I am a better parent, a better neighbor and—the real point here, for Horace readers—better at my job. If I don’t get out of the office, away from my desk and into the “real world,” I risk misunderstanding how schools and communities really work. I risk forgetting the messiness, the conflicts, the joy, the pride and the relief of being part of something bigger than myself.
Through service-learning, Essential schools encourage their students to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves even as they help students know themselves better. For many schools, service- and community-based learning helps students meet their goals and thrive in ways that are inseparable from structures, curricula, pedagogy and assessment processes. We hope that this issue of Horace is a valuable resource for all Essential schools no matter where they are on the path to incorporating service in fundamental ways.