With over 20 years of experience in the education field, Shilpa Sawant is the current Principal of SNBP’s International School, a CBSE based school in Pune.
Shilpa Sawant shares her insights about leading a school and the world of education….
On becoming a Principal
Being a psychology student, I have an urge to peep into the minds of people. My mind tries to analyze why a person behaves, acts, dresses, talks, remains silent, has a fetish for , even why is he/she creates an email id weirdly. I enjoyed being a teacher and would keenly change my teaching methodology with a few garnishing of humour. However, I found that somewhere I had limitations as a teacher’s time with students is short-lived. My hunger lead me to the position of a School Principal where I am not limited to any particular class or a period. Moreover, I am authorized to mentor them wisely for their academic growth.
The three most significant challenges as a Principal
The three headed monster is always invisibly present in the schools and the Principals, like King Arthur, have to bravely fight him. The three heads are parents, students and teachers. All challenges revolve around them and the Principal is like a juggler maintaining the appropriate balance among them.
• The first challenge is to define and identify high standards of intellectual quality for learning.
• The second is to improve the quality education. With limited resources, finance and high pressure expectations from the management, parents and teachers, the Principal faces difficulty in maintaining the balance.
• The third challenge faced is to sustain the effort of school improvement. The entire academic year the Principal has to monitor carefully whether the protocol made is being followed. Many a times I have observed that changes for improvements are made, but if they are not closely observed, and then it becomes a mess. Without supervision, the staff will do as they please disregarding and breaking the rules.
Using newer mediums like smartboard in classrooms versus the traditional textbook and blackboard
I realized that even though a teacher is trained, it is still in a chalk and talk method, and not by digital teachings. In Montessori, B.Ed, Diploma in education, teachers are made to manually make teaching aids, charts, draw etc., so how can you expect them to be so tech savvy?! Considering this fact, the management of each school should first train the teachers strategically. Once the teachers understand and learn to use smart boards, students will definitely gain from lectures.
I think that using a smart board enhances a student’s thinking and increases the student engagement in the classrooms. When a lesson is taught through the smart boards, the students visualises the concept, listens to the sounds and memorizes by the resources. It’s like entering that stage or an era. Various media types can be displayed on the screens like photos, videos, maps, graphs which is a rich source of information. The smart boards allow children to interact and can even teach each other. A difficult lesson can be easily explained in many ways through the technology as it is connected to the internet.
Each child is different, and it is often challenging to get children engaged in learning due to short attention spans. Some children are visual learners while others learn auditorily or kinaesthetically. Smart boards are designed to engage all students through all these learning styles.
On coaching centres focused on preparing students for competitive exams
The rise of coaching classes has jeopardized the schooling culture. The need for coaching classes emerged when sadly, our education system demanded high percentages for admissions in engineering, medical, civil servants, etc.
In Schools, students are taught lessons and then evaluated quarterly/ monthly or term wise, however, in coaching classes students are made to rote the answers without even understanding it basically.
Coaching classes promise high percentages and not high understandings. Students and parents gain trusts on these classes as everyone is keener to pass with flying colours. No one seems to bother if the student is clear with the concept.
My opinion of these classes is that they make a person dependent on the crutch, even though he can walk and run.
Introducing the IB board as an option in schools
• I think more and more schools should introduce the IB board in their schools as it offers PYP, MYP and IBDP where students learn beyond the academic study. This type of education offers to learn through real life experiences which are very essential in today’s competitive world.
• IB board allows a lot of flexibility in the choice of subjects and students can decide what subjects interest them.
• Moreover, IB schools are recognised internationally which offers a better global platform to the students. They can enrol for some gateway programmes which are recognized globally and can help them to earn credits required for international universities.
Of course this type of board is expensive and is not widespread in India.
Managing the overall demand for good teachers
Teachers are vulnerable individuals who struggle to align instruction. The need of efficient teachers is real and every school faces this problem. Considering this issue, I have a strategy of conducting one-on-one meetings for all teachers who have taught for a longer time in the school just before the end of the academic year. In this way I understand the difficulties they faced in the year and the challenges they accepted. I give them some scenarios in the competency based interview where I try to analyse their potential. Many a times, I come across the situations faced by them which helps me in understanding whether they are looking for other opportunities or whether they are happy to continue. I discuss their views with the management and then we plan accordingly. It really helps to retain the efficient teachers and reduces the number of new hires.
Advice to Students
As the Missile Man, Dr. Abdul Kalam rightly quoted: Difficulties in your life do not come to destroy you, but to help you realise your hidden potential and power. Let difficulties know that you too are difficult.
SNBP’s International School
126/A Manjri-Keshavnagar Road, Near ShivkrishnaMangalKaryala,
Manjri Bk., Pune 412307, Maharashtra.
Phone numbers: 9146656622/ 9011577199
Facebook: SNBP’s International School