Learning as Service

We are sharing our own thoughts in response to this months prompt (Refer back to The Invitation if you have questions about what we’re doing here). Tiffany Smith shares her thoughts on our prompt: “What does it mean to you to be in service to others?” 

I have come to believe that I’m only truly in-service to others if I’m firstly in-service, authentically, to myself. It is a “both and” – a reciprocal relationship where my own acknowledgement of my learning and growth is key to my ability to detect and facilitate growth in others.

In line with that, I see three key elements of what it means to be in service to others.

To be in service is…

  • … being primarily engaged in a learning process. That means learning for you, first and foremost. You are there to understand something further, to negotiate your own thoughts on the basis of the contextual nuances of the situation you happen to find yourself in… embracing that even if we have expertise, learning is a constantly evolving and co-created experience. Learning is for everyone, not (AT ALL!) just for those we serve.
  • … to truly listen to those you’re serving. It is important to be humble and receptive. If you already have the answers, why are you there in the first place?! 😊 When we set out to be in-service to someone, we can only be in real service to them if we’re actually LISTENING to what they’re saying… their experience, expertise, and practical wisdom.
  • … to take real action. I can listen with the intent to learn, but if I do not act on the basis of that learning for those I am serving, I really haven’t acted at all. I am not at all interested in being “in-mere-lip-service” if you will. We can talk about upholding culturally responsive practices… about reconceptualizing what it means to be an evaluator… about how white supremacy and systemic racism shape our practice. But to act is to not be a passive participant – to put our learning into practice.

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