“I’m thrilled to be able to share with you the role of service and action in the classroom.
– Sanam Edwards
My name is Sanam Edwards, and I am an advocate for student voice, choice and the evolution of school systems. I hope that this article gives you an insight into how to build selfless leaders who will become global citizens of tomorrow.”
Infusing service learning and action in the classroom
What do the words “service learning” mean to you? I have always held ‘service’ and selflessness in high esteem as I constantly saw my mother leading by example and helping those in need. I have relished volunteering at schools for the underprivileged and can affirm that there is no feeling in this world like the pleasure and contentment of giving. The prominence of service and action by the International Baccalaureate hit home for me as I yearn for my children to become service-minded young people. It was one of the motivations for me to join an IB school, and I am inspired by the practices that I see implemented in the school where I work.
I recall witnessing service in action for the first time in the corridors next to my third-grade classroom. Our breakfast is typically served by a caterer taking a trolley down the hall and serving each classroom. On this day, I noted that students from the Middle Years Programme were distributing cutlery to the young ones and helping the caterer serve food to my third graders. Upon further questioning, it turned out that these students had been defaulting when it came to their uniform and consequently were asked to help the school community through service for a day.
When these students had arrived for the job, they were sullen and embarrassed. The students then began to recognize that the primary children were thrilled to see them and invited them to sit on their benches and regale them with tales of what it was like to be a ‘big kid’. After that, the walls between ages started breaking down, and soon we could see the MYP students serving with smiles and joking with the third graders. At the end of the break, I could see that the imprint of emotions from performing a service that gave another person happiness would remain with them forever.
Don't make service a punishment.
While involved in a sharing session with my personal learning network, I offered this example as an inspiring way of correcting students and showing them the path towards service instead of punishment. One of my peers ventured forth a theory- Do students begin to associate service with doing something wrong? I thought long and hard before I determined that people take many paths to understand the need for service. Some of those roads are rocky, while some have hearts made for it; however, once a child or adult finds the delight of service, nothing can diminish the feeling of accomplishment after completing an action that benefits others.
While service learning is a prerequisite for higher grades in an IB, I can see an actual trickling of sentiment downwards throughout the school. This stems from a celebration of action by our management team as we have an ‘Action Board’ at the entrance of our school. Educators could put up examples of their service for other teachers and students to be inspired. I always loved glancing at what teachers were up to- from donating their hair to make wigs for cancer patients to supporting canine shelters. We were also encouraged to share our actions with students, and they would share theirs in turn. As a result, we have had students leading massive tree plantation drives, using recycling to facilitate green zones in their localities, and awareness campaigns led by the students to educate families in rural areas about the significance of hygiene. This exchange of experiences generated a magnificent cycle of inspiration that moulded the next generation to be global citizens of tomorrow.
Since the pandemic hit us, the education sector has recognized the need for change in teaching. Teachers all over the globe are now veering towards social and emotional learning and building empathy and resilience in students. I feel that creating a system where action takes priority in learning journeys is a recipe for success. There is nothing that service cannot teach us. By serving others, we discover the hardships that others endure and develop the compassion required to live with grace. We form relationships with individuals with who we never thought we would unite and learn that no strife can overpower the value of human connections. Every life lesson we want to teach our children is encompassed in service, and I can only hope that it is included in curriculums across the globe, given the needs of these changing times.