Teaching is not a time-oriented profession, it is target-oriented
analyses Mrs Renu Sharma, Principal, Indirapuram Public School, Pratap Vihar, Ghaziabad
Indirapuram Public School group is one of the prestigious schools in Ghaziabad. How long have you been associated with this group and how have you influenced the growth of it?
My association with the group is of 13 years. Indirapuram Group is truly prestigious and huge. We currently have six branches across India. I had joined the group in 2007 at Indirapuram Branch as PGT Chemistry. During my tenure of five years at Indirapuram branch I learnt a lot and did everything a teacher is supposed to do. This is my strength that I can identify all the minor issues a teacher faces. Gradually I was promoted as Senior Head Mistress of the school. My mentor and the current Director of the group Ms Rita Singh has enormous faith in me and she was the one who recognised my capabilities and admin skills.
I was promoted and transferred to Indirapuram Public School, Pratap Vihar as Principal in 2012. I took it as a challenge and never looked back. The school saw a radical change soon. However, I could not feel the magic as I was busy working hard to fulfil my challenge. Now the school has a self-disciplined team to face any kind of challenge. The school has won many accolades in almost all the fields and produced good results consistently year after year.
The school has been focussing on activity-based teaching and experiential learning. Extracurricular activities and vocational courses are given due importance and the alumni of the school has made their places in reputed institutions.
As you said just that the school now has a self-disciplined team, it is a great achievement. What skill is required to identify these ‘core’ members?
A principal requires honing numerous skills. From choosing core members to set up distributed leadership, a positive attitude is the bottom line. When I had joined Pratap Vihar, there were 30 teachers and now the strength is 80. In the forming years, I have always gone by my observations and experiences. Secondly, I believe to be grounded and approachable. Many great personalities have fallen because of their non-approachability. Being an educationist, one has to be approachable to all the stakeholders—to the teachers, students, parents and even to the clerical and cleaning staffs catering to school. The parents of this branch do not require an official appointment to meet me if their reason is genuine and valid.
This much of involvement needs a lot of dedication. How much time do you devote to the profession you have chosen?
Someone in this profession cannot afford to be time-oriented but target oriented. Even when one is at home, their mind is occupied with the things to be done or the consequences of what has been done. So, how can you restrict the timing to 8 to 3 or 9 to 6? I have certain responsibilities and I cannot let that go. If I don’t have skills, I am not disciplined myself, how can I expect my staff to be the same! One has to be a role model and manage the time well.
A principal is answerable to all the stakeholders. How challenging is the role?
A principal is the CEO of a school. They need to look after both the qualitative and quantitative part of the growth of the school, the quality of education, fundraising, meeting parental queries and what not! Secondly, until and unless there are challenges, there is no life. I get bored easily if there is monotony in work. Challenges are important and those have to be there. I believe school is such a place of work that never allows anyone to be bored. I have received both appreciation and criticism in abundance in my career and I am not bothered about that. I love to walk the talk. I try to meet every stakeholder to understand their point of view however remain firm as far as the norms of the school and well being of child is concerned.
There is no end to parental aspirations. How do you deal with them?
Human relationship is probably the most complex one. However, once we come to know each other, once we understand a person, the chance of misunderstanding ends. Initially, I had to fight many small and basic issues because many things were streamlined suddenly. When I had instructed to close the main gate by 7.50, some parents had issues with that. I had listened to many taunts. They used to come in groups. I have met each one of them, counselled them, talked to them logically and finally convinced them about the importance of discipline and strictness in a school and also at the same time conveyed the message that the school is a no-anger zone and no one has the right to pollute it with agitation, irritation, anger or frustration. I think approachability, logical reasoning, patience and realistic approach are the key skills to deal with such aspirations.
One major issue of parents is English communication skill. All of them want their children to be efficient in communicating in English as they pay a hefty amount but language acquisition theory says, atmosphere matters a lot. What would you say?
In the formative years, we focus on developing literary and numerical abilities and a lot on communicating in English in school. We discuss with the parents that we don’t know magic, it is a skill and that is to be acquired by practicing in school as well as at home. We provide all possible aids and gradually they acquire it after spending few years in the school even if the home atmosphere is not supportive. We have literary clubs running in schools, story-telling sessions are specially planned in the time table, various literary activities are planned and students are motivated to participate in the same. Teachers create word wall from every chapter to enhance the vocabulary of the children.
Parents send their child to us because they have faith in us. Once we gain faith, half of the battle is conquered. Every parent wants his or her kid to be a better human being. I am sure, once the faith is build up, they will not question us. This faith-building is to be done in the formative years. Some parents will always be there who won’t understand things and teachers should have the skill to bring them on their side.
Have you gone through the new education policy draft?
Oh yes, very minutely and I have made my notes. Many changes are about to come. The policy is good. The focus would be on concept building against rote learning, experiential learning, interdisciplinary approach among various subjects, emphasis on development of 21st century skills among students, skill development, liberty of choosing any subject beyond the boundaries of various streams and much more. CCE was the best possible thing happened in Indian education but we could not embrace it because of lack of skills amongst our teachers and the kind of diversity in our country. CCE was giving confidence to students to enhance their skill and excel in life. CBSE could have rolled it in a small number of schools on an experimental basis. I found just one thing negative about CCE. Students were losing the habit of working hard. Let us hope that NEP-2019 would bring a lot of positive changes.
What would happen to the number of preschools mushrooming in every lanes and alley, as NEP-2019 is going to change the pre-schooling concept largely?
I believe those would be clubbed with prestigious and elite schools. There will be learning hubs and clusters. 4-5 private and government schools would be there in each cluster. They intend to merge the resource that the government schools lack in—the learning methodology, pedagogy etc. Anyways, CBSE is working hard on pedagogical planning. We were instructed to submit annual pedagogical plan a year back.
Do you think that the teacher training process in India is at par?
No, I am not happy with the system running now. A lot of change is supposed to come in the BEd course, however, as per the new Education Policy, teacher training should be more rigorous and realistic so that the profession of teaching is taken up by choice and not by chance. After 2005 NCF, this draft has come with much hope. Let’s see what radical change it might bring in.
Students mostly stick to the prescribed NCERT books now. The habit of consulting reference book is lost. Don’t you think they are losing reading habits?
It is a fact that reading habit is lost. But, there is no compulsion from CBSE to use only NCERT books, at least up to the elementary level. Students can refer to any book for better concept building. Nowadays teachers are also scared about recommending extra books as some parents do not want to go beyond the prescribed list. However, we ensure that reading habits are developed and nurtured by providing various facilities and conducting various activities in the school. The school has a furnished library with more than 10,000 books for the students to refer and issue the same. Celebration of literary month, Shakespearean drama contest, Book Review, Spell Bee, Declamation, MUN etc are some of the activities conducted in school to make our students avid readers.
Don’t you think that corporatization has become prominent in school education now?
See, it depends on how the head of the institution handles the situation. Again, it is a skill. If a little bit of corporatization helps to run the institution smoothly, what is the issue? The Principals have to learn to read between the lines at times. They have to read people. They have to learn to be diplomatic; at times, they have to be harsh…according to the situation they have to react. As far as dealing with the government and administration is concerned, if spic and span rule is followed, everything would be good.
Would you like to share any message with our readers?
Teaching needs improvisation every day. Therefore, we have to update ourselves, adapt ourselves instead of complaining. Developing 21st-century skills amongst us is equally important along with developing those in our students.
Secondly, communication is an important part and it is lacking. Teachers mostly do not know how to communicate with the children, parents do not understand what to communicate and the confusion is passed on to the children. We need to overcome this. Expression, communication, collaboration—these three are very important and we, the educationists have to develop these aspects.