Sharmila Chatterjee, during her career of more than three decades, has been the Principal of Delhi Public School Ghaziabad Vasundhara, and the Principal of Blue Bells Model School, Gurgaon.
Sharmila graduated from Delhi University and is an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad. She has also been a part of Australia-India Teacher exchange programme, to identify opportunities for establishing professional relationships between Indian & Australian educators/institutions/communities. A master trainer in life skills, Sharmila spearheaded integration of life skills in curriculum. She is a practitioner of Multiple Intelligence approach to learning & Total Quality Management in education.
She holds double masters in History & Human Rights and carries expertise in the elds of Academic Leadership, Instructional Leadership, Human Resource Management, Co - Scholastic Activities, Curricular Reform, Classroom Management & Transaction, Inclusive Education, In - Service Training
What or who inspired you to get into teaching?
There are a few people who have been my inspiration. My mother is & will always remain my biggest inspiration. It was her dedication and sincerity to her work as a teacher that always intrigued me. I was also deeply motivated by some of my teachers who were like role models, as they left an everlasting impression on me.
What according to you would be an ideal curriculum in schools? Kindly elaborate.
Being in the eld of education for the last 3 decades, I have come to realise that there is no ideal curriculum for schools. We are a diverse country with a rich and vibrant culture, history, art, languages and geography. All these factors play an integral role in the shaping of a child to an adult and a citizen. I believe that our curriculum should be re‑ective of our country’s rich culture, heritage and geographical factors.
How are schools, teachers and the education system as a whole, going to be impacted due to COVID-19? Kindly elaborate.
The entire world is going through an extraordinary and unpreceded challenge. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has presented every stakeholder in the education sector with unprecedented challenges. The impact of the pandemic will be felt in all the domains of learning. The teachers are ensuring that the learning goes on by conducting online classes effectively. However it is challenge to maintain the attention of the pre-primary and primary learners
We need to deliberate on several other significant issue like sports, outdoor educational trips & visits, group team activities, hygiene and food, etc.
Hosting and conducting team games will be a challenge and worrying factor. The emotional and psychological factors also need to be addressed, it is a time when we need to be extremely compassionate and empathetic towards all age groups of learners. School provides a platform for not just academics, but also to build and hone socio-emotional bonds with their peers.
The faculty and the staff will have to be trained for dealing with the situations post the pandemic. We also have to work towards making some infrastructural changes in the schools. Overall, it is going to be an extremely profound task to deal with the impact of the pandemic which will have to be a combined effort of all the stake holders along with the local/district administration.
What are the steps a school or a teacher can take to keep the students engaged in a classroom?
‘Don’t limit a child to your learning, for he was born in another time’ – Rabindranath Tagore. We have seen in the recent times that there is a Faculty development programs should be an integral part of all schools policy and planning. transformation in the pedagogy and practices of teaching–learning in schools. The teacher–facilitator is not limited to the chalk-board method to teach, technology has made significant impact in the educational systems. All boards across the country have adopted ICT to make learning engaging and productive. However, the role of the teacher is very important as the key moderator/mentor and guide. The teacher paves the path of learning – but she/he must remember the fact that each learner is different with a unique learning style. Teachers have to appreciate and implement the concepts of Multiple Intelligences and also adapt to an inclusive classroom. How a teacher prepares for a class is the key. Children should not be bound by the syllabus, they should be given the liberty to explore, experiment and deliberate on given situations. The learners should be involved in all the processes of learning- only then the learning becomes concrete and the student becomes a lifelong learner.
Do you think online classes can replace the traditional way of teaching? Please elaborate.
Online classes have come as a boon today in the times of the national crisis to reach out to the learners and continue the process of learning. However, we cannot consider this as the best option in the long run as there are few basic challenges that the learners and the teacher are facing. The pre-primary and the primary learners cannot be engaged effectively on an online session for a longer duration. Group learnings, eld trips and conducting lab practical is also an important part of learning which is not possible with online classes. Also, assessments for young learners and school going children cannot always be based on MCQs and objective pattern. Online classes are best reinforcement techniques and can be an extension to classroom teaching.
In today’s education scenario, how important is teacher trainings and workshops? Kindly elaborate.
Faculty development programs should be an integral part of all schools policy and planning. The education system in India is rapidly transforming adopting the best practices from around the world. The teachers have to be constantly in a learning mode and have to be updated with latest techniques and methodologies of teaching-learning. The Central Board of Secondary Education has now initiated compulsory teacher training modules which is the best thing to happen to the education system.
What has so far been your most rewarding teaching experience?
As a teacher I have always believed in being a facilitator and make students empowered to take the lesson forward. I also involve students to prepare questions based on blooms taxonomy. The students are the best teachers and they learn best when they become the core of learning process. Our teaching-learning becomes effective only when it is learner–centric.
What according to you the greatest misconception about teachers/principals?
The greatest misconception about teacher & principals, I feel, is that they know it all and that they can never go wrong. I feel this is not true. Teacher are also human and it is any human mind to know everything. And yes they may also make mistakes.
If given a chance to change one thing about the education system today, what would it be and why?
I believe that education should manifest in freedom – freedom to think without prejudice, freedom to express, freedom to experience the unknown and explore one’s inner potential. In a conventional meaning education is meant to provide us knowledge and information about theories and discoveries which is already established and accepted. It provides little opportunities to the learners to question the established and encourage to explore possibilities – to experiment and investigate with everything. Young minds are fearless, we need to tap this energy and provide the young learners the platform to identify their self-worth and potential. That is true education, I feel.
A few words for teachers…
Teachers are second parent/mentor/friend & guide to a learner. They make a child understand her/his true worth and potential, instil in them wisdom and all the life skills - creative and critical thinking skills, decision making skills and above all, self-awareness. A person, however successful or wealthy he becomes, always remembers his teachers in times of refiection. I believe that teachers have the strong ability to not only mentor young minds but also engage and infiuence the society at large. A teacher/mentor's words of encouragement for their learners manifests in positive energy and brilliance among them. A teacher never ceases to be teacher in her lifetime. I would like to quote Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam here - “Teachers have a great mission to ignite the minds of the young”.
This article originally appeared in the TeacherTribe Magazine July 2020 edition.