There have been several articles of late on the subject of mental wellbeing and resilience being put to the test, particularly during the lockdown periods that are still currently in place in many countries around the world. Screen time and zoom fatigue are real issues.
As humanity, we are social creatures by nature and crave social interactions, but that should not be at the cost of our mental health. Our brains simply do not function in the same way when interpreting human emotions and faces through a screen, compared to in real life. We recently held an open webinar on the topic of why it is now paramount to place wellbeing at the heart of learning. You can see more on the [RE]LEARN Wellbeing series here.
In a spirit of sharing what works (and what doesn't) in case this can help others, here are six measures that have been put in place at Learnlife over the last few weeks to increase and help support mental wellbeing:
1) Less Screen Time - From within one week of taking our full time learning programme remote, our Learning Guides were hearing feedback from learners that the rhythm and volume of time that learners were required to be connected and online was too high (and bear in mind they were only spending a maximum of 4 hours per day in zoom calls and group activities but even this, our learners said, was too much). As is the nature of our agile Learning guide team, they re-grouped, re-assessed and adapted the remote learning programme to reduce to a maximum of 2-3 hours of screen-time per day for each group of learners.
2) Wellness Wednesdays: This concept was introduced a couple of weeks into the lockdown period in early April and enables learners and their families to focus on wellbeing as a family. The schedule is very fluid on that day and aside from 1:1 check-ins, learners are given the space and agency to focus on engaging in activities that bring them joy, peace, relaxation – as a family unit or on their own – based on whatever the emotional need may be in that moment. Some of learners decided to opt for "no screen / no gaming" afternoons, others chose to do sport, some engaged in mother and son yoga and meditation. The options were infinite and enabled families and learners to reflect on their wellbeing needs and get creative in how they addressed them.
3) One on one check-ins: Our learning guides reserved several hours in their schedule each Wednesday to ensure each learner could have a 1:1 check-in with their learning guide during the morning on "Wellness Wednesdays". This interaction was intended as a safe space for sharing and open dialogue about how learners are feeling and above all, create an atmosphere of trust and empathy that enabled learners to be sincere about their state of mental health and any challenges they are facing.
4) Family and parenting workshops: Creating an honest and open space for discussion and interaction with other parents who are going through similar struggles has been a powerful tool for helping families to connect. It has helped many parents realise that their own "lack of normality" is totally normal. We kicked off a series of weekly workshops for parents and educators from May onwards during which we tackled a range of topics, ranging from how to manage screen-time and the era of new digital technologies, to mindfulness for children and adolescents, how to talk about emotions and even, what does parenting look like beyond Covid addressing key learnings and what we aim to do differently.
5) Real talk: This activity is a favourite among our learners as they get to raise and debate real world issues that concern them, and in many instances this activity is learner-led as a way for them to develop and grow their leadership and facilitation skills. In essence, real talk is a social-emotional hour where learners discuss real world issues in small groups of learners of similar ages. This activity already took place in person in the space and has been continued during the remote learning programme as a core part of the learning experience.
6) Learner Help desk: Navigating remote learning can be a challenge and there is always the possibility of technical glitches or learners feeling isolated and alone when things go wrong. A real time troubleshooting zoom space was set up early on to help learners find their way back to the relevant activity -- whether it be a break out room discussion, or if they have specific questions about an activity or personal project they needed to be doing individually in their own time. In all instances, someone would be available in the learner help desk to lend a hand if needed.
If you interested in learning more on this topic and engaging with global thought leaders, we will be running a series of remote workshops in August and November on the topic of Wellbeing in Education. Find out more about our Remote Workshops