I am infamous for being more strict with parents than with my students

I am infamous for being more strict with parents than with my students

says Sangeeta Basu, Vice Principal, Central Modern School, Baranagar, Kolkata

The government of India is finally focussing on skill development at school level. While it is not easy for schools to focus the shift from result-oriented delivery system to skill development, a gradual shift is required to make the transition easy and beneficial for both, students and teachers. What would you say?

It is indeed essential to identify skills in a child at an early stage and focus on their development for best manifestation. I feel that the teaching-learning system at school has been doing that always. A child’s special skill or talent is mostly identified in schools. It is then nurtured and groomed; and finally presented for appreciation in various competitive platforms. However, our country is known for its emphasis on academics and result-oriented delivery system. This mind-set is predominant in the parents’ psyche and they are in a habit to compare the academic performance of their child with their peers. It is a shocking truth that, they communicate with the teachers only about marks and grades of their child and not about their overall well-being or emotional needs.

Anyways, it is important for all the stakeholders of education to understand the significance and effectiveness of nurturing of skills in children so that the shift becomes easy. Formulating rules and implementing them just for the sake of implementing, will not solve the purpose of skill development and neither will they make the shift easy.

It is tough to develop skills within four walls of classroom with a deadline on completion of syllabus. What types of changes are required to the classical classroom model to make them future ready?

The present-day curriculum and syllabi is skill-based with components for projects and assignments of various kinds. Classrooms of today are already equipped with technologically advanced accessories, which help focussing on skill development.

Research says when it comes to children, 10% is formal learning, 20% is social learning and a whopping 70% is experiential learning. What do you do in Central Modern School to give emphasis on experiential learning?

Experimental Learning is indeed the most effective learning method today. Because it is active method, students readily understand what they are learning and thus retain the knowledge to a greater degree than merely having information acquired. This learning enables students to be curious, creative, think critically and feel empowered to participate in various issues that affect the world around them. It also helps develop leadership capabilities. The curriculum design of the Council for Indian School Certificate Examination for all classes involves EXL methods and here, at Central Modern School, we adopt these methods involuntarily.

Activities like planting trees & nurturing them, keeping the campus clean, preparing models for exhibition, enacting value based skit for the morning assembly etc. are a few to name. Students engage themselves in these activities under the able-guidance of the teachers. Even Principal Mr Nabarun De, Secretary of the school Mrs De, Junior School Coordinator Mr E D Guest are all enthusiastically involved in these activities. Teachers involvement enthuse the students a lot. Our school is a plastic free zone. No one is allowed to carry plastic bags in the school premises and we have been practising this for a long time now. Instead, making jute bag is a craft that we promote. So, from classroom to extra-curricular…we try to make learning experiential.

How long have you been associated with Central Modern School, Kolkata? How have you influenced the growth of this school?

I joined this school in January 2007. Every individual in this energetic team has their own influence in the growth of the school. I love teaching and I enjoy being a part of all school activities. With sincere efforts from all, development is inevitable and being a member of such a team, my influence in its growth becomes inclusive.

Dealing with parents is a crucial factor in school education. What is your opinion?

Indeed! Let us see it in a wider context. The social scenario is majorly responsible for this situation—nuclear family, working parents, broken families, fewer social gathering with relatives, cousins and siblings are all responsible for the situation. It is important to spend time with children, speak to them about things beyond academics, about their childhood and always not necessarily about ideals. My method is undiplomatic. I am infamous may be for being more strict with parents than with my students because I feel, a child is a child after all and they learn from the elders. Almighty has been benevolent to shower blessings on me to help me know my students well. I speak to the parents about the source of the trouble in their child, and I feel, they understand what I mean. What I felt in my 28 years of teaching career is that, if you love your students and understand them, it is not difficult to make the parents understand. It is not about faults but about problems that need to be sorted out. It is one of the professional hazards for teachers.

We tend to believe that what is taught in class is learnt. If a child is unable to learn, either he is unmindful or his intelligence is of poor level. However, researches in cognitive science have established a clear gap between teaching and learning. Do you agree? What are the ways to bridge these gaps?

Yes, I do. Before entering a class, a teacher needs to have grasp on two things—subject matter, that is to be taught and the student, who are to be taught. If they do not have grasp on the subject, they will not be able to deal the students and their queries. Similarly, they need to know the pulse of each child in the class to get an effective result.

In a Mathematics class, a teacher should never expect all the students to solve a given problem at the same time, in the same way or for that matter, to solve the problem at all. The teacher has to encourage them all to try and solve it. It ensures interest among the students.

On one hand, we speak of making students independent and on the other hand, load them with tuitions, self–learning kits, on-line learning. Each time he is guided in a different way, which is a hindrance to understanding. Moreover, students now are not eager to receive what a teacher teaches or preaches. They are unmindful because they know someone else will explain the same thing. The eagerness to know suffers a natural death even before we are aware of it. Most of the family lives today are governed by the study schedule of the child at home. Yet, there are complaints that the child is not studying or not scoring well.

Not everyone might score well, but at the end of every term, children certainly learn something. We need to identify what has the child learnt and find out ways to progress from there.

Being the Vice-Principal, you must be loaded with administrative work along with academics. Do you go for class observation personally? Do you share the feedback with the concerned teachers?

It is an integral part of my job as well as my habit to be in touch with whatever the students are doing at school. As I have said earlier, it is my duty to know my children and communicate with their parents. Class observation is necessary for all these.

We do have healthy discussion with colleagues regarding observation made. The Principal, academic co-ordinator and I constantly monitor class performances of the students, lesson plans made by teachers, notebooks, answer schemes etc. Our teachers are aware about every child, their problems, strength and weaknesses.

Would you like to share any message with our readers?

One thing is eternal in this transitory world—the bond between teachers and their students. It is a blessing to be a teacher. A true teacher is one who gives time to his students, inspires them, is impartial in class and does not judge students. Nothing is more satisfying for a teacher than to see his students excelling in their subject to the highest level, yet recalling with gratitude that it all began with him or her, at school. Similarly, nothing is more rewarding for a student than to be remembered by his alma mater. It is the best love ever. We, the educationists should nurture this and try to be more effective in shaping the lives of the future generation.