Talking to Padmalatha K.
Ms. Padmalata K, teacher-turned-Principal at Nalanda Educational Institutions, Vijayawada has close to 3 decades of experience as teacher and administrator, her stories and ideas are enriching and thought-provoking.
My current school is located in a rural area of Vijayawada. It is about 10km away from the city. This is a branch of our main school – Nalanda Educational Institutions. school – Nalanda Educational Institutions. We take pride in our Chairman Mr. A Vijaya babu , without whose guidance all this would not have been possible . He has a very futuristic approach and modern views in educating the children . His entire work is only focussed on how to create a good platform for every child so that they will not have to look back later in life . He has dedicated his whole life for the benefit of the students who enroll into his organisation. The institution is about 25 years old and our branch is completing a decade this year. We have around 1000 students.
At our school, we follow an all-round development-based curriculum – it is a holistic approach curriculum. We focus not just on academics. Children are also given a platform to gain exposure for acquiring various kinds of talents, like short film making, etc. At the state level, our students stood at second position in short film making. We have sports activities and had our students participating at State and National Levels. With all this, we have academics also running parallel.
We at this branch cater to the rural part of Vijayawada. Nevertheless, these children are equally competent as any other child growing up in any other part of the country. That is how we hope we are making a difference.
We have around 70 teachers. It is a CBSE School.
99% of the children are from the local areas. Apart from that, we have a few residential students, who are not from the rural areas and extremely low number of students who come from outside this area.
I have been at this branch since the last 8 years. But, I have been with Nalanada Educational Institutions for the last 20 years.
I was educated in Bangalore. I am settled in Vijayawada because my family is here. I used to teach science subjects until last year. From this year on I am only taking care of the administration.
Challenging in recruiting teachers
Earlier, we had teachers coming into this profession by choice but now we get good teachers by chance. People don’t see this profession as a choice decision anymore. Many people just use this profession to bridge a gap. They are here in a stop gap arrangement until they land another job. Those are the only people available right now, which is a sad thing but a reality. So, we now have to make the best use of what we have.
In our school, we conduct training sessions, engagement activities and motivational classes for teachers and try making the atmosphere conducive so that they also feel satisfied.
I believe, once a person is satisfied, it is easier to make them work by choice. That way they will work more effectively and will be more productive. This reflects positively on the school as well because happy people leave positive vibes, isn’t it?
We focus on keeping our people happy. I mean, there is a conscious effort to maintain a conversant and friendly atmosphere within the campus. The teacher-student relationship, the management-teacher relationship is best kept at a friendly note. I don’t believe that anybody should be bossed around. Such things can create a tense atmosphere.
The management, thankfully, always permits teachers have a say in the decisions they take for the school – whether it is planning the classes, to express their problems, etc. These things are being discussed and at the end of the meeting they take decisions that are acceptable to all. Every week we have meetings and every month we have training sessions. Besides that, we have strong HR policies too.
It is when we give the best that we can expect and deserve the best.
Teaching quality appraisal
Yes, we believe in actively giving feedback. Teachers are aware about how they are graded and they know how their work is viewed. We keep giving them timely feedback.
We believe in keeping it transparent so that nobody has anything to complain about. I don’t mean to say that things are ideal. We face situations where 1 or 2 have a reversed point of view. We will always have minor issues but we try sorting them as soon as we can and in the best possible way. Or else, we may have to go for a different person.
How I spend my time?
A major part of my time goes into organizing things like meeting parents, etc. Being a school, parents are our customers. So, we have to give them our priority and time.
Also, as I told you earlier, we have a holistic-approach. So, every week, we will have some activity or the other going on. For example, just last week we had the My Food My Medicine week. During that week, we brought about awareness among students that if they ignore a good diet they are indirectly choosing to consume medicines. Even parents came in for these sessions and seminars. We had invited nutritionists. Likewise, we will have some event or the other going on and pulling these together and organizing those keeps me busy for most part of the day.
The third chunk of my time is given for conversations with teachers.
So, in short my time is divided among parents, teachers, students and organizing activities.
My proud moments as a teacher
I once had a parent who came to meet me. They were not from a very well-to-do family. They had two children. They wanted to enroll their son and enable him to gain good education. When asked about their daughter, they said they will enroll their daughter into some local school.
I spent some time talking to both children and I found the girl child to be really bright. I told the parents that I will enroll either both kids or none. I also did talk to the management to help them so that they can afford sending both the kids. To my amazement, the girl went on to become a real gem for the school. She has been consistently topping the class every year, since the past 4 years.
I am so proud of the decision I took that day. When we make little differences to children’s lives, we can see the transformation in all aspects of their life. It’s amazing to see how they come in Vs how they leave the school.
My frustrations as a teacher
I feel it is not just children that need education, parents need that too. Usually parents look at the child from only one angle. It honestly doesn’t matter if the child gets 90% or 70%. You have to understand how capable he/she is getting. It is not about the marks alone.
We have not been able to deal with this mindset satisfactorily. I still have parents coming in and arguing about the marks. I keep trying to educate them that marks are important but it is not what defines life. If they are so adamant about marks, I wonder what the child will be dealing with at home and that thought disturbs me.
Parent anxiety has shot up in the recent years.
Yes, and that takes a toll on children. They are expected to excel everywhere in whatever they do. How is that even possible?
This parents’ anxiety has spiraled up competition so much so that it gets totally unfair for the child and sometimes damaging and destructive too.