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'Politics in the School': Assessing a Brazilian Service Learning Experience Since 2005
Unformatted Document Text:  Early in the first semester of 2006, “Politics in the School” made a point of targeting in- coming freshman to familiarize them the objectives, theoretical content and methodology of classroom visits, and administrative responsibilities. Around fifteen meetings were conducted with new members (usually called during the lunch hour) to discuss articles, sometimes under the guidance of a Political Science professor. Classroom dynamics were also rehearsed. The new recruits slowly formed the base for reactivating the project during the second semester. Field activities were now resumed with about 30 members fanning out to the schools that were previous hosts (P.S. 18 and 22). Administrative duties, however, could not be taught in any reasonable fashion as even the more experienced members of the project could not know all of the demands that might be faced. Thus, 2006 was a year of rebooting and relearning without much methodological or organizational innovation. In the year that followed, these efforts were rewarded. The Universitýs formal recognition of extension activities brought the students transcript credit. The project also increased its stipend students from one to three which offered a stimulus for the new participants and also gave the faculty adviser an anchor for communication and leadership. But new problems were also detected. New members still lacked self-confidence and some preparation for the classroom. Project administration became overly concentrated in three or four people which led to inefficiency. On the practical front, lesson planning and execution remained about the same as many new to the project had little to contribute in refining the material. But at the end of each semester, evaluation and planning meetings are also held. In 2007, three innovative suggestions arose and were pursued. First, a preparatory course for project participants was designed and implemented. The course lasts fifteen hours and is usually held during the three weeks preceding the forays into the classrooms. The content focused on the content of each visit and discussed theory and methodology. The administrative structure was also explained and every new member was included in a task, thus decentralizing considerably the workload while ensuring that everyone felt integrated into the project. Second, administrative activities were more carefully delineated. Thus, the inexperienced members started early on to develop abilities to handle the most diverse tasks. For example, getting in touch with onés artistic side was necessary to develop classroom handouts. Dealing with the University bureaucracy and handling finances demanded other skills. All of these tasks are important to the project and demand dedication from everyone. As a result, new leadership consolidated more quickly and the possibility of constant renovation became evident. Third, due at first to the development of the preparatory course, the group kept working during the academic breaks. This led to another major advance: all classroom routines and lesson plans were completely reformulated. Thus, by the middle of 2007 all materials were standardized and made immediately avaliable for those going through the preparatory course. A principal change was the inversion of the order of the thematic visits of voting and representation; today, the new sequence is politics, participation, representation, voting, and democracy. The need for the switch became necessary as the group refined the concept of

Authors: Groth, Terrie.
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Early in the first semester of 2006, “Politics in the School” made a point of targeting in-
coming freshman to familiarize them the objectives, theoretical content and methodology of
classroom visits, and administrative responsibilities. Around fifteen meetings were conducted
with new members (usually called during the lunch hour) to discuss articles, sometimes under
the guidance of a Political Science professor. Classroom dynamics were also rehearsed. The
new recruits slowly formed the base for reactivating the project during the second semester.
Field activities were now resumed with about 30 members fanning out to the schools that were
previous hosts (P.S. 18 and 22). Administrative duties, however, could not be taught in any
reasonable fashion as even the more experienced members of the project could not know all of
the demands that might be faced. Thus, 2006 was a year of rebooting and relearning without
much methodological or organizational innovation.
In the year that followed, these efforts were rewarded. The Universitýs formal
recognition of extension activities brought the students transcript credit. The project also
increased its stipend students from one to three which offered a stimulus for the new participants
and also gave the faculty adviser an anchor for communication and leadership.
But new problems were also detected. New members still lacked self-confidence and
some preparation for the classroom. Project administration became overly concentrated in three
or four people which led to inefficiency. On the practical front, lesson planning and execution
remained about the same as many new to the project had little to contribute in refining the
material.
But at the end of each semester, evaluation and planning meetings are also held. In 2007,
three innovative suggestions arose and were pursued. First, a preparatory course for project
participants was designed and implemented. The course lasts fifteen hours and is usually held
during the three weeks preceding the forays into the classrooms. The content focused on the
content of each visit and discussed theory and methodology. The administrative structure was
also explained and every new member was included in a task, thus decentralizing considerably
the workload while ensuring that everyone felt integrated into the project.
Second, administrative activities were more carefully delineated. Thus, the inexperienced
members started early on to develop abilities to handle the most diverse tasks. For example,
getting in touch with onés artistic side was necessary to develop classroom handouts. Dealing
with the University bureaucracy and handling finances demanded other skills. All of these tasks
are important to the project and demand dedication from everyone. As a result, new leadership
consolidated more quickly and the possibility of constant renovation became evident.
Third, due at first to the development of the preparatory course, the group kept working
during the academic breaks. This led to another major advance: all classroom routines and
lesson plans were completely reformulated. Thus, by the middle of 2007 all materials were
standardized and made immediately avaliable for those going through the preparatory course. A
principal change was the inversion of the order of the thematic visits of voting and
representation; today, the new sequence is politics, participation, representation, voting, and
democracy. The need for the switch became necessary as the group refined the concept of


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