“Poor Leadership in bad times is a recipe for Disaster”- Experience of a School Head

By: Admin 26 July, 2017

Poor leadership in good times can be hidden, but poor leadership in bad times is a recipe for disaster.

 

All over the world, Education is defined not by its infrastructure, or curriculum as much it is by the quality of its teachers. So, the question arises, who defines this quality? What are these standards?

Is quality directly proportional to marks? Sadly, in many countries and in Indian context the answer is Yes!

Superficially, in intellectual conversation, pseudo modernized groups, international forums, there are speeches, and directives given by school heads on progressive education, need to change, rising above marks based assessments and learning to be the ultimate aim of all education.

Then there are educationists and teachers who are the real warriors in the field. They are not involved in policy making, but have the ultimate power to bring in the desired change in any society.

I write this with conviction formed on real professional experiences gathered in a span of 25 years. I taught in a classroom with tin roof, in no internet age, computer was not heard of, there were no smart classes in a then remote town of western India, that produced smart students who are doctors, engineers and pilots today.
 

Please! Not even once do I intend to propagate these professions but feel the need to reiterate a fact mentioned earlier, the school was made by dedicated, committed teachers. Salaries were poor but our passion rich.

We could question authorities, guide and convince parents, challenge curriculum, create pedagogies suited best for our learners. This confidence spoke of clarity in a teacher ‘s intention to make her learners excel in life.

I recall in Grade 1 EVS lesson titled ‘Family’ that read, “Mummy cooks at home, Papa goes to work”.

The six-year-old in class stood up and said, “but Teacher My Mamma goes to work and Papa makes breakfast.” True, his Mom was a doctor in the Indian Airforce. Soon many voices, whose moms were teaching in the same school, also disagreed with the statement.

Wow! That speaks volume of the analytical skills of those little learners.

After class, the teacher walked up the school Principal to discuss the case and curriculum.

Soon after, there was a staff meeting, and a subsequent and probably at higher levels to create a curriculum for the primary that suited the contemporary times and changes in the society.

Leadership plays a great role in academic excellence in an educational organisation. The support received from the Principal was the reason that gave the confidence to the teacher to reach out and expect encouragement.

Yes, there were questions from parents, for many of them, books were the only way education could happen. We still lived in an era of limited media, and international exposure so vocab was limited besides understanding.

The teacher moved out of the city. Our experiences and environment are the best teachers and learning lasts for ever. The Teacher saw success in every school she went to. Her results of the board class were exceptional and commendable. With her realization, she could promulgate a conviction that if we focus on learning, marks happen.

She was excited to teach in the most reputed school in town new to her. To her surprise the students were not as competent and motivated. To her it was a challenge again to bring her learners at a level they deserved, as she saw immense potential in them. Her first task was to understand individual learner strength. There was no anecdotal record or any detail available of these students other than their progress cards.

There was not much time. A report was created with suggestive actions. Some suggestions were direct, some implied. She also suggested to segregate classes of different subjects and learning levels. A class of fifty in a small classroom would dilute the effectiveness of learning even further.

Sooner than she realised were weekly tests followed by periodic assessments, in a span of two months.

Staff was told that the result had to be declared before the last exam got over. So correction of answer scripts to be done in a few hours post examination, fortunate were those who got days or a few. The new experienced teacher questioned the confusion.

The question paper selected for class was of a level much lower with glaring errors. She brought that out to the exam department. Sadly, her feedback was mistaken as complaint and fault finding.

Summer vacations were to begin in a week.

In the best interest of her students she decides to mail her analysis report to the coordinators. The efforts of the teacher were appreciated by them. The teacher needed Principal’s support to take further constructive action to make changes in pedagogical practices. She waited for response and the only feedback was about a parent who had complained about her progressive methods.

How difficult was it for a school leader to convince a parent of effective learning and long-term gains? There were reports to support, as result sheets, teacher’s feedback, and answer scripts.

And vacations began. The teacher went abroad physically but carried her students along. While on a holiday, she collected material, prepared worksheets, innovated learning games and strategies for her learners who had challenged her.

One evening she gets a mail that her services are not required, because the gentry of that area is backward and the parents are not sure of progressive and constructive methods. They would have someone who believes in traditional teaching learning methods. The teacher’s mail id  was blocked and communication barred.

 

Is effective teaching a victim of poor leadership?

Does a school leader’s role define academic excellence anywhere? Is absolute power leadership?

Leaders today are captive of the chair.

Power weakens, and absolute power weakens absolutely ... no no please this oxymoron is intentional. Power is no pun (fun) but supreme.
 

Time to introspect, ponder and awaken.

 

Renuka Chhabra

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

About the author:

 

Renuka Chhabra

 
Renuka has over 25 years’ experience in Education, Program Management, Content Writing, NGO Management, Corporate Training in addition to teaching. She has worked with over 15 schools across the country as a Teacher which laid the foundation for her passion and expertise in the Education Industry. She has used these experiences through the development and delivery of high quality Teacher Training Programs. Most recently, she worked as the principal of a leading school in Mumbai.

She brings forth a combination of passion for Education, extensive experience in Teaching / Training, Leadership skills, Hands-on execution as well Strong Learning abilities. Renuka lives in Delhi with her husband and a friendly beagle.