Project SHINE

Levitt Center
315-859-4451 or 315-859-4894

The Levitt Center is located in Kirner-Johnson 251.

Journal Writing Tips

What Should I Write in My Journal?

Here are a few of the ingredients of keeping a great journal borrowed from Reflection: Getting Learning Out of Serving

  • Journals should be snapshots filled with sights, sounds, smells, concerns, insights, doubts, fears, and critical questions about issues, people, and, most importantly, yourself.
  • Honesty is the most important ingredient to successful journals.
  • A journal is not a work log of tasks, events, times and dates.
  • Write freely. Grammar/spelling should not be stressed in your writing until the final draft.
  • Write an entry after each visit. If you can't write a full entry, jot down random thoughts, images, etc. which you can come back to a day or two later and expand into a colorful verbal picture.
  • Use your Reflection Log to help you organize your thoughts before you formally begin to write you journal entry

Structuring Your Writing:

  • Use the journal as a time to meditate on what you've seen, felt, and experienced, and which aspects of the volunteer experience continues to excite, trouble, impress, or unnerve you.
  • Don't simply answer the questions listed below, but use the questions as a diving board to leap from into a clear or murky pool of thought. Use the questions to keep your writing/"swimming" focused.
  • Final journals need to be edited for proper grammar and spelling.

The Three Levels of Reflection

The Mirror (A clear reflection of the Self)

Who am I? What are my values? What have I learned about myself through this experience? Do I have more/less understanding or empathy than I did before volunteering? In what ways, if any, has your sense of self, your values, your sense of "community," your willingness to serve others, and your self-confidence/self-esteem been impacted or altered through this experience? Have your motivations for volunteering changed? In what ways? How has this experience challenged stereotypes or prejudices you have/had? Any realizations, insights, or especially strong lessons learned or half-glimpsed? Will these experiences change the way you act or think in the future? Have you given enough, opened up enough, cared enough? How have you challenged yourself, your ideals, your philosophies, your concept of life or of the way you live?

The Microscope (Makes the small experience large)

What happened? Describe your experience. What would you change about this situation if you were in charge? What have you learned about this agency, these people, or the community? Was there a moment of failure, success, indecision, doubt, humor, frustration, happiness, sadness? Do you feel your actions had any impact? What more needs to be done? Does this experience compliment or contrast with what you're learning in class? How? Has learning through experience taught you more, less, or the same as the class? In what ways?

The Binoculars (Makes what appears distant, appear closer)

From your service experience, are you able to identify any underlying or overarching issues which influence the problem? What could be done to change the situation? How will this alter your future behaviors/attitudes/ career? How is the issue/agency you're serving impacted by what is going on in the larger political/social sphere? What does the future hold? What can be done?

Reflection Questions

Questions about American culture and assimilation...

  • What image of American culture is projected by the questions for citizenship?
  • What image of American culture do the ESOL instructors present to their learners and what image of American culture do you find yourself presenting to your learners?
  • Did you experience difficulty understanding or communicating an idea because of the use of slang or idiomatic phrases? Explain.
  • What are your learners' goals in America? Do they believe in the "American Dream"? What is the American Dream? Does it exist? Do you think it can be achieved by your learners? Why or why not? What is the measure of success in your learner's country? Would success in America also mean success in their country? Why or why not?
  • How is being "American" taught in your classes, if at all? How is being "American" taught through the citizenship process and the 100 questions? What do you think are the first steps to becoming American? Is learning English the first step? Do any of your learners seem American to you? Why or why not? What does it mean to be American? What do your learners need to do to seem or be American? Do your learners even want to be American? Why do you think that some do and others do not?
  • When refugees and immigrants arrive in the US, in order to "succeed" should they hold onto their own culture or assimilate into American culture? Is it possible to hold onto one's own culture AND assimilate into a new one?

Questions about your learners...

What's the difference between a refugee and an immigrant? Are your learners refugees or immigrants? Did your learner tell you? If they didn't, how do you know? What are some reasons that cause people to become refugees?

What's your learner's story? How did she get to America? Is your learner open to talking about her past and her journey to America? Why or why not, in your opinion?

What attitudes do you and your learner share about family, politics, education, or religion, and which attitudes are different? What do you think accounts for these differences? Are you surprised that some of your beliefs and attitudes are similar? Why or why not?

Look up information on the country of origin of your learner. How is the official history similar or different from what you have learned from your learner?

Is your learner a refugee or an immigrant? Why did he or she come to America? Does she ever go back to her country? Is she even allowed to? How would you feel if you were forced to leave your own country, and never be able to return?

Have your learners discussed their families, kids, parents, spouses, grandparents, etc. with you? What roles do certain family members play in your learner's culture? Are these roles similar or different than your family members' roles? Which family members are in school to learn English or become US citizens? Or is the whole family trying to learn English or become citizens? What does this say about certain family member's roles in certain cultures, if anything?

Why does your learner want to learn English or become a citizen? Does he want to learn English or is he required to go to school to learn English?

Questions about community service and your SHINE experience...

Are you making a difference to your learners and to your community by participating in SHINE? Why or why not? Is contributing in some way to your community important to you? Why or why not? If more people participated in community service or worked with people who appear different than themselves, would we still have so much bigotry, prejudice, stereotypes, war, violence and hatred? Why or why not?

Do you think participating in SHINE, doing community service, really talking to people who seem different than you can make the US more racially, culturally, and socially integrated? Or less fearful and prejudiced of others? Can it make America a REAL melting pot? Can the melting pot ever really be achieved?

Do you think that you have a responsibility to use your great education to help improve the lives of others, or does your education serve only to improve your own life and your family's life? Is one good and the other bad? Explain.

Questions about politics, economics, today's society and refugees...

The number of refugees and immigrants allowed in to the US has dramatically decreased since 9/11/01. Why? Will limiting the number of refugees and immigrants in to the US really help protect America from terrorism? Why or why not?

America was founded by immigrants and refugees--we are a country of foreigners, so how have we become such a xenophobic nation? What do you make of that?

As the most powerful and influential nation in the world, does the US have a responsibility to help more refugees and displaced people all over the world? Why or why not?

A hundred years ago immigrants entered the US through Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty was their first image of America. "Give us your tired, your poor..." was what America and Ellis Island stood for then. What do you think of that? Is that line a myth or do you think America really stands for this statement?

How have media/film portrayals of refugees and immigrants (and people from other countries than the US) impacted your own perceptions? Were these portrayals positive or negative? In what way?

Many Americans like to view the US as a melting pot. What does the term "melting pot" mean? Is the US a melting pot? Is Utica a melting pot?

Questions about immigrant and refugee populations in Utica...

Utica is considered more of a melting pot than the US as a whole with 15% of the city's population being immigrant or refugee. But is the city really a melting pot? Why or why not? Do you think the diversity in Utica is a positive thing for the city or not? Does that diversity make Utica a great place to live or does it deter people from wanting to live in the city? Why or why not?

Is the large immigrant and refugee population a good thing for the city of Utica's economy or not? Explain.

Why do you think Utica is a host city for so many refugees and immigrants?

For Globalization and Cinema students

How will you portray your learners in your documentary? What do you think is the most important thing about your learners or your experience that you would like to express in your documentary? Do you think this is also the most important thing to your learners? Why are these things the same or why are they different? How can you make a documentary that is beneficial to you and your class and to your community site?

For Adulthood and Aging students

Before beginning your SHINE coaching, did you think that older people were capable of learning a new language? What was your image of an elder and her capabilities? Have your perceptions of older people changed since you began SHINE? Explain. What are your learners' motives for learning English or becoming citizens as older adults? If you were in their shoes, do you think you would be going to English class every day to learn a brand new language? Why or why not? How does your experience tutoring elders compare to your classmates' experience in the nursing home? How are the elders the same or different?

For Theory and Practice of Nonviolence students

Most of the refugees you work with are direct victims of violence. How has that affected your learners? Do they talk about their past and their country's past with you? In your opinion, why or why not? Have any of your learners taken non-violent action to resist violence in their own country? What have they done? Do you know much about the history of your learner's country? How might that have contributed to your learner's arrival in Utica?

For Ethics of Globalization students

Maybe here you might discucss the US's foreign policy. Does "liberating" countries like Iraq mean that we don't need to take in as many refugees?