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On Reflection

By Emily Sullivan

"Service action does not automatically become service attitude. The depth of reflection determines the quality of the attitude, and the quality of the action."

-David Sawyer of Berea College

On Reflection

As we begin to fill out our final reports, schedule our final meetings, harvest our final produce, and say goodbye to members of our AMI family over the next few weeks, it is time to reflect both personally and professionally on this whole experience.

On good days I think of when MBC students LaToya or Mariame said they felt empowered while digging in the dirt, or when one of the children I gardened with at the Valley Mission said he wanted to be a plant scientist one day because of our talks about native vs. non-native plants. On bad days, I think of the projects that didn’t become anything noteworthy. Realistically the year was a combination of many moments that could not be described in one word, positive or negative.

Empowered MBC students, LaToya and Jazmin gardening last spring!

Without ongoing reflection this time wouldn’t have had nearly as much of an impact on us or in the organizations we have been working with the past 11 months. As I look back at the year, I find myself grateful for working with wonderful people that guided me through the year, and they all had their methods of reflection that I found useful.

After collecting the little moments that make up the past year and considering my own feelings throughout the year, I:

Beets and carrots planted by MBC students last spring, harvested over the summer

Realistically Described, noted, and measured what happened.

Figured out what I was thinking and feeling, and examine where and how that impacted the work I was doing.

Evaluated the experiences: how did they go? how were others impacted? what was accomplished?

Analyzed what I can make of the situations.

Concluded what else I could have done.

Established an Action plan for what to do if I were in these situations again.

And Repeat because reflection as a process is long, cyclical, and continuous.

It’s the reliable, old D.F.E.A.C.A.R. method*.

Carrots post harvest!

Fortunately I have been reflecting throughout the year with the help of AMI and my weekly check-ins with my supervisor at MBC. Instead of boring you with a step-by-step analysis of my year, I can confidently say that it’s been a good year, with challenges, successes, failures, and above all growth. Personal growth and vegetable growth.

Reflecting on my first semester at MBC

*This framework is roughly based on the Gibbs’ Reflection Model, Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle, and all the indispensable weekly check-ins with the great Steve “cheapsuit” Grande.

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