It would take a community to raise a school

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Education is quite dynamic nowadays as those theories which were considered true two decades ago no longer hold good today. In addition to the recruitment of quality teachers, their welfare, training and empowerment, schools need integration of competent and passionate people or professionals outside the school systems for an overall progression. Shedding light on this, Indu Khetrapal, Principal, Salwan Public School, New Delhi, G Thangadurai, Director, Presidency Group of Schools, Bengaluru and Mangalore, Dr Rajesh Hassija, Director, Indraprastha Group of Schools, New Delhi & Noida, Ajeeth Prasath Jain, Senior Principal, Bhavan’s Rajaji Vidyashram, Chennai, and Dr R Ramaswamy, Director, Soundararaja Vidyalaya, Dindigul, Tamil Nadu, talk responding to a set of key queries.

With an exponential growth in the number of schools across the country in the recent past, the recruitment of quality teachers to schools is becoming a matter of serious concern. What do you think would be the right steps to identify and recruit good teachers for a school?

Indu Khetrapal, Principal, Salwan Public School, New Delhi
Indu Khetrapal, Principal, Salwan Public
School, New Delhi

Indu Khetrapal: The right step to identify a good teacher is by observing her and identifying her passion for teaching. After scrutinising the requisite papers, qualifications and experience the teacher must be asked to give a trial class. Through the trial class we will be able to ascertain the knowledge, presentation skills and instruction skills. One must always observe her body language while speaking to the students, in case the teacher constantly hesitates and uses expressions such as “er, um”, etc it is an indication that the teacher is unprepared and nervous.

A good teacher will always innovate and create interest in her subject. The love and understanding that she has for the students and her subject becomes very apparent when the teacher enters the classroom and manages it well. An effective teacher will be able to engage the students and create in them passion for learning. The strategies implemented by the teacher should be convincing and meaningful.

G Thangadurai: Connections with past students and parents’ association should be made stronger, which in turn would encourage them to refer good and committed teachers. Alumni associations or clubs help to a great extent in building connections and attract quality teachers. Local neighbourhood can be sensitised and made aware of the presence of the school which would attract people residing close by to render their services. Less travel time, convenience and reputation of the school will draw the attention of the dwellers in the neighbourhood.

An attractive remuneration package compared to standard market rates, insurance plans and policies, slightly employee friendly HR policies, provision of crèche (for teachers with infants and toddlers), a cafeteria, hosting an annual conference and giving away awards and certificates to teachers with exceptional service in their respective fields at the end of the academic year will attract good teachers, boost confidence, promote goodwill and reduce attrition considerably.

Thorough screening and interaction of old teachers and new teachers while recruiting can also be of help.

Dr Rajesh Hassija: For an educational institution teachers are the backbone. There is no profession more essential than that of an educator, and it’s time for all of us (society at large) embrace and celebrate their importance and contribution to the country’s children. These steps may help us to identify and recruit good teachers: i) Share vision, core values and culture of your institution through different mediums; ii) Create an environment where in the institution emerges as an attractive workplace for the potential employees; iii) Organise job fair or advertise in it; iv) Use your good teachers and administrators as role models. Let them be a part of the larger educational activities where other teachers get attracted to their growth; v) Use referrals of good staff members or parents; vi) Offer financial incentives that include handsome salary, performance-based incentives, etc. vii). Offer vertical growth to the staff members; viii) Tie up with good teachers training institutes to catch budding professionals immediately after the course.

Ajeeth Prasath Jain: Quality of a teacher does not rest on mere paper qualifications. Quite often, it is passion that drives quality. Schools should therefore articulate their vision and strategies to drive quality through proper identification of the teachers. Such identifications can be also received through informal inputs and through references. Senior teachers of the school, parent community and local community can play a vital role in facilitating the schools to link with the passionate teachers in the local geographical network.

Dr R Ramaswamy: At the core of the problem is the aptitude and attitude. Teaching, more so in a school is not everybody’s cup of tea. Therefore, weather the prospective teacher will have a sustained interest and involvement in the years to come needs to be discerned. Other factors, then, play their subsequent role in identifying the right candidates. Subject-specific evaluation at national level—both written and oral, by boards of well experienced senior school teachers co-opted by faculties of teacher training institutes or university departments, could help measure the content knowledge.

Classroom observation by competent experts in the prescribed syllabus and curriculum will help measure pedagogical skills. One cannot lightly think of teachers’ managerial skill regarding documentation process of teaching, learning, evaluation and inferential aspects as also behavioural management inside and outside the classrooms during academic and non-academic programmes. These aspects have also to be considered.

Induction of teachers into a school after their recruitment needs careful planning so that they are able to synergise themselves into the system easily and effectively. What steps should you think be adopted for such an induction programme?

Indu Khetrapal: Providing a comprehensive induction is essential to support the new entrants in the transition to the teaching profession or a new school. Assisting teachers at the beginning of their careers helps build teaching excellence and improve outcomes.

  • One week regular hand holding with the mentor for practical experience will facilitate the teachers well being resilience.
  • The mentor must make the new recruits aware about the rules and regulations and a copy of the same must be given to them.
  • They should be informed about the lesson planning and its execution in the class.
  • Introduce the new recruit to the rest of the team. Inform team members of the new recruit’s start date and role; resolve any potential conflicts. Perfect guidance must be provided and focus must be laid on hands-on activities, rather than just providing instruction manuals. The new recruit must be involved in real work (with appropriate supervision) as soon as possible; identify opportunities for early successes.
G Thangadurai, Director, Presidency Group of Schools, Bengaluru and Mangalore
G Thangadurai, Director, Presidency Group of
Schools, Bengaluru and Mangalore

G Thangadurai: Induction planning should be very effective. It is the most important stage to foster confidence among new employees. Old teachers to be assigned as mentor teachers to the new recruits to give them an initial handholding experience and make them feel at home and needed. Free and frank group discussions between old and new teachers to clarify the latter’s doubts regarding HR issues, staffroom condition, kind of parents and students, inter-relationship between staff members and management, etc can be addressed (general and department wise). At this stage, it is very important that the senior teachers give a transparent yet a positive feedback of the school and work culture.

Unnecessary talks or discussion of petty and personal issues should be avoided. (The positive sides of the institution being showcased as this stage will determine the mentality of the new recruits.) New teachers should ideally be associate teachers helping the senior teachers in class management and learning about the work culture in a new setup.

Dr Rajesh Hassija: Learning is a life-long process. It must be remembered that every great teacher was once a student, every winner was once a loser, every expert was once a beginner, but all of them have crossed a bridge called ‘learning’. If we want our teachers to teach our students well, then we must induct newly appointed teachers systematically and teach them well, too. Also, ensure that i) Effective schools have a comprehensive, inclusive, and sustained induction-cum-orientation programme which trains, supports, and retain new teachers; ii) Every new member of the teaching fraternity must begin with an initial induction programme of about four to five days; iii) A continuum of professional development must be offered, through systematic training, over a period of two or three years; iv) It must be ensured that the new teachers are provided study groups where they get opportunity to network and build support, commitment, and leadership qualities in the learning community; v) The employees must be presented a structure for modelling effective teaching while in service; vi) The inductees must be provided opportunities to visit demonstration classrooms so as to get a better idea about effective teaching-learning process.

Ajeeth Prasath Jain: Induction of the new faculty has to be done with meticulous care. They need to harmonise themselves with the new culture of thinking and action. Induction of the faculty is a holistic process and not merely an external design. Cultural integration with the school vision, mission, policies and procedures takes adequate time and cannot be done through a one-shot process. Each team member right from the security guard to the principal are part of the induction. The new teacher gets to learn from all. Students contribute to a great extent in the induction as they give a perspective with which the teacher has to deal with each hour of the day. A peer teacher who has joined the previous year when assigned with the new teacher can help in enhancing the comfort level of the new teacher.

Dr R Ramaswamy: The induction plays an important role as it enables the entrants to know and understand the classroom characterising every school in its own unique way. No two schools need be alike. Briefing the inductee on the ethos, conventions, traditions and environments peculiar to the school from the perspective of the management, parents and local community will be the first need.

Clearly expectations of schools are to be articulated. A site orientation to highlight available human resources, physical facilities, infrastructures, procedures and policies must be carried out. Meetings with teaching and non-teaching community of the school followed by a welcome get-together will pave the way for a beginning and development of rapport and good inter-personnel relationship.

Facilitating observation of classrooms of other senior teachers and offering orientation on instructional strategies will prepare the ground for eventual academic work. Reviewing lesson plans in departmental meetings adds to a climate of collaborative endeavour in ultimate lesson transaction. Briefing on the CCA and ECA provisions and the role expected of the inductee towards his/her contribution make things clear as to what and how will the inductee be able to take care of his participation in the fullness of the comprehensive school activities.

Nurturing and mentoring of committed and passionate teachers for their growth in the school system is necessary to encourage their sustainability in the school. What steps do you think the school management and the head of the institution should take to address this issue?

Indu Khetrapal: To check the attrition rate the head of the school as the mentor must provide enough opportunities to the teachers for professional development. These can be done through in-service training and conducting workshops on time and stress management, classroom management and pedagogy. Each individual must be provided leadership and growth opportunities. Regular feedback should be taken from the teachers and use it in decision making process. Conducive environment must be provided for the teachers to grow and feel comfortable because if the teachers is comfortable and appreciated for her effort it will help to create a passion for the job. Constructive criticism and critical appreciation will help the teacher to grow professionally. Schools can introduce meditation sessions in order to help stress. These meditation sessions could be attended by the entire faculty.

G Thangadurai: The school management and the head of the institution should pay considerable amount of attention to build inter-personal relationship between staff members. Ego issues or problems between teachers should be intervened directly and personally by the head of the institution. Apart from that, workload for the teachers should be planned in such a way that they all have time to unwind and spend with their families. It is the management’s obligation to ensure that teachers have quality time for themselves and are able to complete the familial roles too (as most of them are women who are in-charge of the administration and smooth running of their house). Timings and vacations can be slightly altered and revised to create that ‘personal space’.

Internal and external audit inputs/feedback could also address issues. Workload to be balanced which requires enough planning and deliberation. (For example: teachers taking grade 10 can be given a few soft/light periods instead of middle school teaching periods). Effectiveness of teachers diminishes with heavy workload which creates stress in their mind. Head of the Institution can directly intervene by teaching and interacting in a few classes randomly. That will help him judge better.

Quality management system required for planning and execution of teacher’s service will facilitate professional growth which undoubtedly enhances self-esteem and promote institutional integrity. Teachers should be provided opportunities to read newspaper or refer books during the school hours to rejuvenate and refresh their knowledge. There should be enough room to prepare the lesson plan and do partial correction in the school itself. Teachers should be trained in repetitive, cyclic patterns on desired topics so that there is continuity and effectiveness.

Dr Rajesh Hassija, Director, Indraprastha Group of Schools, New Delhi & Noida
Dr Rajesh Hassija, Director, Indraprastha
Group of Schools, New Delhi & Noida

Dr Rajesh Hassija: Sustainability of teachers in the school is a burning issue and there are quite a few steps which must be considered to ensure that the school is able to retain good teachers. The steps go as: i) Create career ladders with opportunities for leadership and specialisation; ii) Meaningful opportunities which are challenging and enriching, such as curriculum planning, mentoring, technology integration, professional development and leadership, must be offered to the teachers. Apart from helping them to emerge as excellent teachers, these opportunities train them to be the future leaders. Collaboration amongst the teachers and the students should be cultivated and promoted with the help of careful planning and coordination; iii) Involvement of teachers while creating schedules, curriculum decisions, etc; iv) Create an environment that compensates master teachers who continue to grow, evolve and perform.

Over everything else, all the efforts are made to make the school comfortable, creative, refreshing and exciting learning environment. The salary that is being offeredmust be the best in the industry and regular incentives must be given based on the performance of the teachers.

Ajeeth Prasath Jain: Commitment and passion is either inborn or is nurtured by a committed and passionate school leadership. The school leadership consisting of the management, principal and senior faculty should act as a source of inspiration and motivation. They can discuss past experiences of the school in terms of its growth, the challenges they had met and the strategies adopted to meet those challenges, the opportunities that exist in growth profile, the stress-free environment in which the new recruit could work and learn, the opportunities for creativity and individual performance, the pathways for recognition of good work among other things. The school leader has to spend time identifying to find what really excites the new teacher and what will motivate him/her to develop commitment and passion towards the job. Regular mentoring in first three months of joining the new school can help the new teacher.

When the issue is nurturing “passionate” teacher a judicious bl3ne or pastoral care and a concern for professional developments will be more conducive for a sustainable tenure. An institutional climate that makes, even the place of work, as a home away from home, very mindful at the same time of formal discharge of responsibilities will be something the management and the Head of the Institution should be happy to part with. What is after all the theory of “Human Relationship management?”

Increased teacher empowerment leading to job satisfaction in all regards will be a nurturing atmosphere basically. Mentoring that provides instructional support, effective in interpersonal contents, one that stands out as a model of a source of continuous learning with a warm heart and a professionally brilliant head takes care of things much beyond a formal employer- employee relationship.

Dr R Ramaswamy: When the issue is nurturing ‘passionate’ teacher a judicious pastoral care, a concern for professional development will be more conducive for a sustainable tenure. An institutional climate that makes, even the place of work, as a home away from home, very mindful at the same time of formal discharge of responsibilities will be something the management and the head of the institution should be happy to part with. What is after all the theory of ‘Human Relationship Management?’

Increased teacher empowerment leading to job satisfaction in all regards will be a nurturing atmosphere basically. Mentoring that provides instructional support, effective in interpersonal contents, one that stands out as a model of a source of continuous learning with a warm heart and a professionally brilliant head takes care of things much beyond a formal employer-employee relationship.

The management must also stretch itself adequately to impress the team that works for institutional goals that they care for the members personal, social, domestic and emotional wellness! This is not something too big a hurdle, for a willing management, with a just and reasonable parameter.

Regular, periodic and sustained training and empowerment of the teachers is the call of the changing education system. How do you think a progressive school should respond given the limitation of the human and financial resources?

Indu Khetrapal: Education is dynamic and is always changing. Educational theories which were considered true twenty years back, no longer hold good today, therefore, a teacher who received his training many years back, must receive new training today. He must remain in touch with the latest trends in education. He must have the up-to-date knowledge of new problems, new methods and new techniques in education.

If there is a limit of human and financial resources then we can use own human resource to train others. Senior teachers can be trained to become resource persons and guide the new recruits in various fields. In-service training is most essential for the professional growth of the teacher. He needs to reinvent his experience, refresh his knowledge, develop a wider outlook, benefit by the experiences of others, acquire new information and hence reorient himself. Education is a life-long process. We all need to learn and innovate. The teacher should continue to learn throughout his life.

G Thangadurai: Keeping the human and financial limitations in mind, a progressive school can still adopt certain measures towards training and empowerment of the teachers. Alternate Saturdays or one Saturday a month can be used for training the teachers on predominantly subject-oriented and value-based topics.

Potential teachers can be selected and trained to be teacher-trainers. Trainers should give a demonstrative class to others on how to teach more effectively and execute structured board work. These trainings and workshops should be cyclic, repetitive and concepts should be reinforced time and again so that it is conceptualised. Feedback of these training sessions and evaluation is also of importance. Assessment of these trainings and workshops to happen during classroom observation (power teaching techniques are being followed or not).

Identifying certain institutions like Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium (Bengaluru), NCERT and local SCERT body and requesting resource person from them will cut down the expense considerably. The concept of guest parent invited as resource person was practiced and worked well. Teachers can also be engaged in different team building activities on a half day like pottery, clay modelling, cooking, karaoke and such other tasks.

Dr Rajesh Hassija: To enrich, empower and transform every teacher to be an educational leader, it is very important for every school to provide a regular, periodic and sustained training. Teacher leadership is a potentially powerful strategy to promote effective and influential teaching-learning process. For every progressive school, it is a cycle of trainee-trainer-trainee. Inspire teachers to work for a purpose and not for pay (most of the teachers joining this mission) and thus, financial or human resources would not be under any limit. Collaborating with parallel educational institutions and their leaders, partnering with parents and integrating industry would help every school to overcome human or financial limitations for empowering teachers.

Ajeeth Prasath Jain, Senior Principal, Bhavan’s Rajaji Vidyashram, Chennai
Ajeeth Prasath Jain, Senior Principal,
Bhavan’s Rajaji Vidyashram, Chennai

Ajeeth Prasath Jain: Yes, human and financial resources are essential in any system where progress is envisaged. Engaging passionate people and empowering resources within the organisation can enable this process. A teacher who is passionate about sharing his/her knowledge can be given responsibility of teacher training in the school with no added financial commitment. This also motivates the mentor teacher to display his/her skills in training. Many parents, social workers, activists and leaders from the local community are excellent in training those who would like to be associated and help a school. Corporate HR managers can in a big way contribute to teacher training as a collaborative endeavour for a social cause. The school leader needs to carefully plan, tap resources and manage them for a positive growth profile of the school.

Dr R Ramaswamy: Establishment of teacher center in every school needs to be first and foremost plan of action. This will be an in-house arrangement. Participants will be teachers; and there will be periodical meetings, once in a fortnight, at the centre. All teachers, by rotation prepare presentations on practical aspects of classroom teaching, mostly in these teacher center meetings. No outsider is invited for these meetings. It encourages teachers to read and share latest trends with their fellow teachers. This should well fit into the mould of ‘limitations of human and financial resources’, usually faced by the institutions.

Empowerment is to develop competencies in teachers to take charge of their own growth and resolve their own problems. Teachers would believe then, they have the skills and knowledge to act on a situation to improve it and the institutions must be alert to enable its display contributing its own share. Empowerment is enabling experience provided within an organisation which fosters autonomy, choice, control and responsibility. It makes teachers feel that they can make decisions that matter both in their classrooms and their schools.

Do you think integration of competent and passionate qualified persons outside the system is a possible intervention to modernise the school curricular and pedagogical quality and what are the roadblocks for such a meaningful intervention in the school system?

Indu Khetrapal: An old African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” One could imagine then that it would take a community to raise a school. Integration of competent and passionate teachers and people outside the school system can go a long way in modernising schools. Integration of in-house and outside resource to modernize and build a robust system in the holistic development of the child and pedagogy needs will go a long way to strengthen the system. This can help in the following ways:

  • Expand the vision of the school authorities with their knowledge and experience.
  • Teachers work with external experts from a wide range of areas and disciplines and across almost all curriculum areas in order to help meet the needs of children and young people.
  • Experience of competent and passionate professionals contributes to the new life of the organisation with fresh ideas, thoughts and action oriented approach.

G Thangadurai: Some conflicts and roadblocks are contradicting ways and methods between the teachers and qualified persons outside the system. There may be a conflict in philosophy, culture and practices. Time and space available for teachers is limited and that acts as a bottleneck to implement and experiment new things in an already given set up. Common curriculums across group schools have already curbed the freedom of the teachers to great extent. However, in spite of the bottlenecks it is possible to integrate if both the teachers and the external experts are at ease with each other. They should be comfortable, open to all the suggestions and flexible to adopt or eliminate certain measures. Absence of ego issues and openness to experiment and try out new things can set things right.

Dr Rajesh Hassija: Yes, very important! Why do we term an expert as insider or outsider? It’s been already mentioned that integrating community, society or industry is a very strategic step towards development, growth and empowerment of any institution. Integration certainly helps an educational institution to fulfil its mission. One can overcome all possible constraints or challenges due to this effective partnership. Integration of competent and passionate qualified persons helps institution to modernise the curricular and pedagogical approach and have a broader outlook. Such collaborations certainly bring positive changes in the institution.

Ajeeth Prasath Jain: Resources, wherever they are, add value to a school’s growth profile. Hence it is always possible to integrate competent and passionate people from outside the system both for the empowerment of teachers as well as students. They can also help in bringing corporate thinking and ideas for enhancing efficiency and productivity in the school environment. Newer approaches to curriculum transaction, facilitation of skills, technology integration in pedagogical delivery and also to help the school in many areas like health, community services and safety can be addressed with their help. One of the major roadblocks in such integration is absence of transparency in school systems, unwillingness to unlearn and relearn by the faculty, inability of the school to invest time, energy and resources in such programs. School leadership needs to examine these roadblocks and help in effective integration of informal inputs with formal inputs.

Dr R Ramaswamy, Director, Soundararaja Vidyalaya, Dindigul, Tamil Nadu
Dr R Ramaswamy, Director, Soundararaja
Vidyalaya, Dindigul, Tamil Nadu

Dr R Ramaswamy: Only educational institutions defy hierarchical management. A head of an educational institution is only ‘first among the equals’. Every teacher wears the sovereign crown with particularly endowed (subject wise mostly and in other ways too) competency to discharge their duties. The head can only be skilful in his subject or an area of activity. The head cannot be a ‘master of all trades.’ It is so inside the institutional framework – i.e., from within.

Therefore, inducting and integrating an ‘outsider’ however qualified and passionate needs to be treated very carefully. There are several ways in which teachers can be exposed to and trained in modernised school curricular and pedagogical needs. Those should be explored to avoid perpetual damage to a permanent arrangement within an educational set up. Incompatibility of interests, approaches are specific to ground realities and an outsider’s ‘I am holier than thou’ attitude should not rock the boat. An outsider may have more qualifications, may have more competencies – comparison is odious and undesirable – but in passion for ‘your school’ is always beyond the pale of certainty!