I would rather have a good human being in my school than a good teacher

I would rather have a good human being in my school than a good teacher

A woman of precision, excellent administrator, education expert, Principal of outstanding calibre, Mrs Rita Singh is the soul of Indirapuram Group of Schools

Being Rita Singh

It would be fair if I say my experience has brought me here. I don’t know whether I am the soul of this school but this school is where my soul is. I have travelled a lot as my husband is in the Armed Forces—different cities & townships, changing cultures, various people and situation have made me quite grounded and dynamic. It’s not that I had the luxury to choose my career always, rather it was the opposite. Since I hate being non-productive, whatever opportunity has come my way, I have accepted that whole-heartedly.

I had started my career with a company called Informatics Computer System. They had a tie-up with schools. Primarily my responsibility was to visit a school for 3-4 hours every day and train the staff. Sometimes I used to train the students also. This was the time when a computer was still a tool for the professionals and not so popular as a subject. People used it for serving certain purposes. Gradually these three hours became the oxygen of my life. I started to enjoy the moments spent with the school kids. Office didn’t attract me more.

Then came the phase when I had to take a break for my first baby. I rejoined almost after three years and within these three years, I had completed the official certification for becoming a full-fledged teacher.

My subject is Mathematics but probably I have taught each subject at various levels and in various capacities other than social science. I never minded becoming a PRT or a PGT. I have served in all capacities from PRT to HOD before taking on administrative roles. All these experiences have enriched me over the years.

Challenges on the way

Life itself is a challenge but honestly, my journey was never a challenge to me. Whatever came in my way, I had accepted that. If you can accept the change, life becomes easier. Secondly, I believe that I have the strength to understand the problem and analyse the situation. It comes out naturally whether it is decision making or perceiving the situation as it is, or understanding any situation and its nuances; because of the experiences, I have had in my life. I was never that ambitious, but whatever I have done, it was passion-driven. I do not like working on an average about anything.

Once I had the opportunity to teach Julius Caesar when I was working in a school as TGT English. It was a challenge for me being a maths teacher. I remember I went through many Shakespearean dramas and literary terms in advance to bring the essence in my lecture and also to meet the curiosities of the children. So we need to equip ourselves to face the challenges other than complaining about it.

Administrative role

I became the Principal of St Joseph’s school, Patna in 1996. It was certainly not a huge infrastructure. Next, I had joined a CBSE school in Bhutan as Vice Principal, courtesy my husband’s posting in that country. Coming back, I have served The Sagar School, Alwar as Dean of Studies for a little over two years and Ryan International School, Rohini branch from 2006 to 2008 as Vice Principal before joining to Indirapuram group as Principal of Indirapuram branch. I continue to be the Principal of this school. In 2012, I was promoted as Director of this group as well.

When I had joined, this group had four institutions and now nine branches are there and it is still growing. I am so blessed that I always have people’s support. Teachers, parents, management and all other stakeholders have always supported my genuine decisions. Whenever I have put up a proposal, whether it is to the teachers or any other stakeholders, even if they do not understand 50% of it, their acceptance has been 100% just because of the faith that they have had in me.

No project or idea is ever been forced upon anyone. Everyone’s opinion is valuable to me. If any extra work is assigned or any plan is to be executed, the logic or motive behind is always explained prior. I want all the negative thoughts, doubts and questions related to any topic should be cleared at the initial stage. Whenever I call for a meeting, I expect active participation of all the stakeholders.  

Indirapuram: A Happy School

We have reduced our working days to five for the students so that teachers get enough time to enrich themselves on Saturdays. This suggestion came from few parents only who felt that their children could do various other things other than just academics.

I have allowed ample use of technology to reduce the burden at various level. Why hold multiple meetings, when we can collaborate over Google docs! Why not bring in inexpensive technology that help us reduce the burden! In the administrative level, we have already reduced the use of papers and registers, which is both environment and pocket-friendly. I believe teachers should ideally be free from burdens other than academics or teaching. 

We have once in a week stay back for teachers and it is subject-wise. People are free and vocal with us. I want my staff to be active in any discussion and if their points are logical, that is certainly taken.

If they don’t want to attend a workshop or have plans to go early, we do let them go. In the last 11 yrs, I have denied not a single leave, not even during exams. It’s got a two ways benefit. First is, that teacher feels comfortable that he/she is not hassled and secondly, the institution knows that nobody will ever become bigger than that. No system, no department is dependent on an individual. So, nobody usually lies and they all have the sense of responsibility that if only they require a leave genuinely they take that. It doesn’t mean that salary is not deducted.  

We have received the prestigious House of Commons award based on the happiness index of the students. This was an honest survey conducted online for 7th to 12th-grade students. They had to fill up a questionnaire containing 100 questions on school, teachers, facilities provided etc, among which 80 was to be answered by the students and the rest by their parents.

Mrs Rita Singh, with over 30 years of experience in education, is the Director of the Indirapuram Group of Institutions and Principal, Indirapuram Public School, Ghaziabad.
She has a Masters in Education and in Business Administration and a certificate in Multiple Intelligences from Harvard. She is keenly interested in education in all its facets.
She has received a number of national and international awards in education including CBSE National Award this September.
An ‘Ambassador of Schools’ with the British Council and Consultant with the Education Quality Foundation of India, she has been a very effective member of ‘District Fee Regulation Committee’ of Ghaziabad and has contributed to community in a big way.

Teacher education in India 

Being self-driven is important since the quality of teacher education is still not at par in India. ‘Self’ not always means an individual; it might be a group as well. For example, we have 130 teachers in my school with an average of 2-20 years of experience. If I take an average of 10 years, in this school itself, I have 1300 years of collective experience. If I know how to utilise that, I don’t have to look at management or NCERT or CBSE. If my intent is right, I can start it here, which I think most of the progressive schools or the Principals with vision have done. If school management has fund, they primarily spend it on infrastructure, then on teachers’ salary, other wish-listed things and lastly on teachers’ development. So, when we have the opportunity to enhance ourselves why not we do so!

Maths: nothing to be afraid

Seventy per cent of students have a visceral fear of maths and it is a fact but I do not find any logic behind it. Firstly, I would like to advise not to concentrate on the problem-solving technique but to understand why we are using that technique. If there is a problem to be solved, we have to understand the problem. While moving on to any next chapter, the teacher should brainstorm how to link the chapter with the old one.

To bring in the essence of experiential learning, we have brought in a modified maths kit for every class. It is a handhold geometry box researched and developed by us as per the NCERT curriculum. This helps a lot in concept building. For science and maths, we have hired an agency by the IITians to design question papers for us. They design a question paper on what our teachers teach. The objective is to find out learning gaps. Though initially, certain teachers were apprehensive, they have realised that it is not to test them, but to test teaching-learning effectively and it saves time as well.

Motivating the team: A regular task 

Wisdom is in changing what you can change, accepting that and accepting that there will be a few people whom you can’t change. Let that be. I think every institution can carry on with 10-15% of staff who can just fulfil the bare minimum duties. If they are good teachers, that is enough. Our management is very supportive. Even before this RTE came to act in UP, our management opened the door for the entire
group D.

Indian curriculum: at least 20% reduction is required  

Yes, the curriculum is content heavy. At least a 20% reduction should be there. Since information is just a click away, students should come prepared in class. classes should be for discussion and deliberation.  

I would rather ideally want to have no notebooks, no books and just discussion in class.

Dealing with parents

I spend a lot of time talking to them as very often not in the setup. I give fewer appointments because a lot of people and work absorb my time. I rather give three appointments in a day and give those three appointments full time. Reaching out to ten people is not important, reaching out to five people with my views put across very clearly is important to me. These ways are slower but surer methods. The parents who meet me once, they develop faith in me as they understand my logic. Next time they may come up with certain issues but not with disbelief or anger.

Message to the community 

I would like to request all the educators to come into this profession if they really do believe in character building. The teaching profession should not be mixed with any other job where one can just come to and earn money. Even if it is a force from your side, once you join, start believing that it is your passion. It is not a factory where you can afford the luxury of one nut bolt being wrongly placed. Even one child can’t go wrong. You have to have that sense of responsibility. To me, teaching a concept is not as important as teaching values. So, if I need to compromise in between the two, I would rather have a good human being than a good teacher.

Specific to India, I would like to add, whatever we reap today, the world will see later on. So, we should act sensibly.