I had the opportunity to present at the IB Asia-Pacific conference in April 2021. My topic was Service for Wellbeing: The Strategies for Navigating the New Normal. The new normal is the paradigm shift in education. The need for wellbeing is the topmost priority for me and for a lot of other colleagues who are dealing with inexplicable difficulties due to separation from family members and restrictions imposed due to Covid19.
I collected data from a group of teachers across the world and found out the common challenges of the new normal:
- All of us are unknowingly suffering from pandemic side effects like fatigue, lack of motivation, uncertainty about the future and weight gain. Yes, stress eating has silently but surely skyrocketed.
- Our social and community links have become fragile probably on the verge of a collapse and we are unable to find ways to strengthen them.
- Even though the blended learning environment is a reality, not many teachers are trained for this new reality. Training and development for the blended learning environment are in their infancy stage.
- Managing the feeling of being left behind; there is so much to catch up; online conferences and workshops; e-assessments for the virtual platform; changing instructional strategies for the blended learning environment, and the list goes on…
As a result of all the above, well-being is compromised. The question arises how do we successfully navigate the new normal?
I found the answer in service-learning. Whilst still nursing the pandemic wounds I found solace in service. After critically reasoning possible solutions for the wellbeing deficit I thought of applying the same strategy at work, using service learning for mental wellbeing. Being the service-learning coordinator, I focused on wellbeing as the main objective for all service projects and activities.
Together with a team of very talented teachers, I was able to map service-learning opportunities in various disciplines; the next step was to create a framework for wellbeing. This framework was created with a design thinking routine:
- Empathize = Wellbeing as the objective for all service projects.
- Define = Challenges due to Covid.
- Ideate = Brainstorm solution or ideas with teachers and students.
- Prototype = Service for wellbeing framework
- Test = Case study of the school’s service-learning programme
This helped me to design the Service for Wellbeing framework. With my experience in teaching, I was able to identify the important parameters for the service for wellbeing framework. Service-learning must be linked to the curriculum, with a strong link to a discipline. Service-learning must have a global perspective like the UNSDGs, this brings purpose to action and keeps everyone motivated to achieve the learning target. The service-learning programme must start with small group projects, especially to combat the stress of uncertainty and social distancing. Group projects bring people together in a non-threatening environment and foster collaboration. The most important parameter, service for well being has to integrate student choice and voice, to allow them to own their learning as well as enjoy the process.
I would strongly advise everyone to try it. The next time you feel stressed, think of ways to engage in community service. Look into your subject area, find service links, think of a task that can be created to align with a global perspective or objective and then share the idea with your students. Trigger their critical reasoning by asking them to come up with service-learning activities linked to the subject and start projects to achieve the target. Try it and let me know your success in fostering wellbeing and establishing service opportunities.