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Good schools make best teachers

A teacher’s effectiveness is often judged by students’ performance on exams. This is narrow and unjust too.
Last Updated : 15 April 2024, 22:05 IST
Last Updated : 15 April 2024, 22:05 IST
Last Updated : 15 April 2024, 22:05 IST
Last Updated : 15 April 2024, 22:05 IST

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Teachers are the pillars of a school. They must be supported and mentored to inspire students to seek higher, wider and deeper. The principal or the school head and managements play a significant role in how teachers perceive themselves and their craft.

A teacher’s effectiveness is often judged by students’ performance on exams. This is narrow and unjust too.

Dr Surjeet Khanna, Founder and former Principal of Delhi Public School, Greater Faridabad, believes that “any school is as good as its teachers.” The onus rests on school heads to ensure teachers are motivated to give their best and empowered to work well.

She says that excellent schools are collaborative efforts, and teachers must feel part and parcel of the institution. Schools can enact that vision only when the management and teachers share a common vision and trust each other. Dr Manveen Sandhu, who has held various leadership positions from headmistress to principal, agrees that teachers must have faith in the management. 

For that to happen, the management must demonstrate faith in teachers. Sandhu warns against underestimating teachers’ capacity. If the heads believe in their faculty, teachers often rise to the occasion. The culture of reposing faith is transmitted to students as well. 

Both Khanna and Sandhu emphasise that the principal must establish rapport with teachers by periodically checking in with them and getting to know them. School heads need to create safe spaces for teachers to approach them with any issue without fear of being diminished, devalued or disrespected. While teachers need to be accountable, they also require autonomy. If the conditions are optimal, Sandhu feels that “most teachers have the ability to surprise.

To foster teacher growth, Khanna believes the head needs to have a good grip on a teacher’s personality and performance. To gain a rounded picture, Khanna recommends that the head observe teachers within and outside classrooms and solicit student feedback through informal interactions. When students came to her office with birthday sweets, Khanna would use this opportunity to learn more about the children, their interests, likes, and dislikes.

These casual conversations often provide a wealth of information on a child’s connect with various teachers. Additionally, when assessing a teacher, the head may also factor in the perspective of colleagues and parents. Sandhu recommends that the principals note down these myriad forms of feedback in a diary or register, as that would help them track a teacher’s overall growth.

Regarding teacher appraisals, Sandhu recommends assessing teachers according to the dimensions of knowledge, skills, and interaction, be it with students, colleagues, or parents. She suggests giving specific tips by asking leading questions like “How can you make your classes more interactive?” or “ How can you help students link this concept with an earlier lesson?” Khanna observes the affective quality of both teachers and students. Do students reflect a teacher’s warmth, energy and enthusiasm for a subject?

When communicating feedback to teachers, Sandhu first mentions a teacher’s strengths. As teachers receive scant recognition, Sandhu suggests that sealed letters of appreciation may be placed on a notice board for teachers. While their colleagues know which teachers are honoured, only the individual teacher knows why, and it is up to that teacher to share the reason with others. 

Finally, the head of the school sets the tone and provides benchmarks. By being friendly, accessible, and respectful to students and teachers, a principal models how teachers may interact with students. School heads who are open to ideas, curious to learn, and committed to excellence set high standards for others to emulate. Principals who listen to critical feedback without becoming defensive are great role models for teachers and students.

(Pratima is an educator and a counsellor; Aruna is a psychologist and writer)

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Published 15 April 2024, 22:05 IST

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