PRADNYA GOKHALE | Director of Academics, Kothari Group of Schools, Pune.
Pradnya Gokhale is an electronics engineer with a Master’s degree in Education, and is pursuing her PhD. She is a team member working on Innovations in Education, with IIT (Bombay). She is a British Council facilitator and has conducted more than 50 workshops on different core skills. As the west zone British Council School Ambassador, she has mentored several teachers in Action Research across India. Pradnya is the recipient of the ‘Gaurav Shikshak Purskar’ by Schools Chapter of Azam Campus. She has been the Principal of MKNS and Head of Curriculum Development and Teacher training at Kaveri Gifted Education Centre in Pune. She is currently the Director of Academics of Kothari Group of Schools, Pune.
What or who inspired you to come into the education space?
It was teaching academic subjects to the international tennis students of my brother-in-law’s tennis academy that actually got me interested in teaching and in the education field. My basic background is engineering, and my first assignment was with an electronic design rm. But on the request of my brother-in-law, I started helping him out when I had free time and I realised I was enjoying the task of teaching the students more than my design job. Then, there was no looking back.
As one of the key members of the leadership team of your school, what are the major challenges faced by you?
The school that I head is big in size and it is a challenge to handle 115 teachers, 1800 students and their parents. According to me, human resource development is most challenging and daunting in all professions. But if one chalks out the mission and goals along with the team, life is much simpler.
Our school is in a true sense secular, and therefore managing the school calendar looking at everybody’s sentiments was a great challenge. Secondly, discipline is nowadays an issue and expecting high standards of discipline is very difficult to achieve. Being a true academician, I felt there was a dire need in training the teachers and giving them an exposure of newer pedagogies. My enthusiasm of teaching and learning matched the energy of some, probably 50% of the staff.
But the rest were reluctant to work. The parents who actually spent quality time with their wards did understand our struggle of achieving high standards. But the rest of the parents who had no time to spend with the children felt the school not doing enough for their wards.
What according to you is the greatest misconception of teachers that people have? Most of the people think that the teachers choose this profession, not by choice but because they are not worthy of anything better. Secondly, they feel that this is the least paid profession.
How important is parent-teacher-school relationship in the development of a child? If any school has to flourish and succeed in its vision and mission, all the stakeholders should join in and work toward a common goal. So it is important for the school to involve the parents at various instances and all should unanimously work for the betterment of the child. The learning gaps for the child should be understood by the teacher and the parent. So that with joined effort of both, the child will be able to learn.
How important is it, in today’s generation, to develop a positive temperament in children? The gurukul concept in Vedic era instilled in the children the love and respect for their guru. As they left home, the guru was their whole and sole and so, they had respect for their teachers. The law of nature is that knowledge would only flow if the gurus are placed at a higher pedestal. It is equally important for the gurus to live up to the respect. The positive attitude is bound to come. In my opinion, the positive attitude towards school should be imbibed by the parents at home. If the parents laugh and scorn at the teachers, the wards will imitate the same. The teachers in turn will feel hurt and not give their cent percent. A negative environment in the school is a barrier for learning.
‘Safety drills are very important to be taught to children in schools’. Please comment. Safety of the child is utmost important when he/she is at school. So, basic infrastructural safety standards should be maintained at school. In order to develop to their fullest - the mind, body, and soul of the learner, one should adhere to, to ensure learners can be healthy, stay safe, enjoy and achieve and make a positive contribution to society. How to be safe should be taught to the students when they are at school so that in case of any emergency, they would be prepared for it.
What do you think are the important factors for the professional growth of a teacher?
First and foremost, the teacher should have willingness to change and adopt and, adapt to the 21st century of learning.
If she/he continues to be the frog in the well croaking loudly, all the student will leave her/him alone in the well to fend for herself/himself.
One should be able to identify their own strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Should be alert and keep abreast with newer pedagogies.
Your message to young, aspiring teachers… First, the most important message for aspiring teachers is - you should learn to love children, be patient and love your profession. It is needless to say, ‘love yourself first’. You will at all stages, wear multiple hats - that of a mother, a counsellor, a facilitator, an assessor, sometimes even a nurse. So do not shy away from all this. Apart from this, have the following goals:
Set high expectations for student achievement.
Use the most-recent educational technology.
Plan instructional strategies.
Apply higher-order thinking skills.
Use cooperative learning.
Apply classroom management techniques.
Remember, respect is got not asked for. This article was originally published in TheTeacher.in magazine in the month of January, 2020.