N. Vijayalakshmi | Principal, Bhaktavatsalam Vidyashram
N. Vijayalakshmi started her career as a Primary Teacher in Hindi in 1986. She was inducted into Bhaktavatsalam Vidyashram a CBSE school in the year 1990.
She has initiated and implemented various pedagogical methodologies. She has a keen interest in promoting innovative practices in scholastic and co-scholastic areas with great enthusiasm. To tap out the talents of the students and teachers, N. Vijayalakshmi organises various enriching sessions to empower the student community and the teaching fraternity. Her passion for teaching has fuelled her to conduct various eye-opening workshops on teaching methodologies, in-service programmes for the teaching community and students in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Assam.
Vijayalakshmi is known among her colleagues and the school management, for her administrative capabilities. She has been a role model to many of her onlookers. Her passion towards Hindi has designated her as the ‘President of the CBSE Hindi Teacher’s Welfare Association’, the first in the country.
Vijayalakshmi is a recipient of many prestigious awards in the field of education, for her illustrious record as a subject expert, administrator and academician for her contribution.
1. How easy or difficult has the transition been, of learning from home to coming back to school? Please elaborate.
Education has seen many changes since evolution and it is a known fact that all transitions do take ample time for adaptation. But in this scenario, there needed a very quick transition from school to home learning and vice versa. Hence, it was quite a challenge for both teachers and learners.
The major implications were on-
Concentration – catching the attention of learners during online classes was a big task, after getting them to do so, back in school reverting to usual form was difficult.
Attendance – large number of absenteeism was noted during online sessions, probably due to lack of net/mobile facilities.
Back in school, initially absenteeism prolonged for a period till they were comfortable.
Assessment - Online assessment techniques by and large were not fair means and marks escalated. Back in school, the conventional methods pulled down the students’ performance.
Digi tools - Access to digi tools was very difficult but gradually was adapted and was effective. Regular schooling lost the access to tools.
Interaction – There was very poor interaction online, which continued in the classroom too.
2. What are the measures and techniques adapted by the school to handle this transition?
A lot of planning and execution was involved to set strategies in order to adapt to the transition.
Initially, alternate day schooling was the norm and teaching the content twice was cumbersome. But we strategised easy module teaching which was student-friendly.
Assessment was made simpler, like adapting to individual/group projects/class discussions, objective questions and MCQs on OMR sheet.
We tried to reduce the burden of exams.
Schooling is not just academics. Focus was given to co-scholastics too by providing opportunities to showcase their talents on social media.
Sports, games, yoga, meditation were also a part of their curriculum, which played a role in smooth transition.
In-house counselling for students who were emotionally disturbed was very effective.
Ted talks to vulnerable students was included. Personality development training, also a supportive enhancement for students. helped in the transition.
3. What kind of leadership will schools require to handle hybrid teaching methods?
If designed correctly, blended instruction is an effective learning strategy that can promote student participation, engagement and interaction.
There are a lot of challenges in adopting a blended learning approach:
Finding the time for training to redesign the course.
Some students are sceptical about the new approach and they are not used to taking responsibility of learning on their own.
Time involved for grading online assignments is more.
Live streaming facilities such as Zoom, ReWIND or Microsoft Teams must be accessible.
At the same time, there are workable solutions too:
Discussion forums for checking the understanding of the online assessments.
Learning from other faculty.
Modifying the course design.
Here are some tips to help leaders/teachers plan for hybrid teaching and learning:
1. Aim for consistent communication plan through texting services like Remind or Group. Me
2. Plan what type of activities are best suited for online learning and which ones are suited for personal learning in a hybrid environment.
3. Focus on the well-being and relationships, and community building.
4. Do not get overwhelmed with tech tools. Slowly introduce the tools to your students.
5. Talk about digital citizenship. Support the transition to distance learning and help students think critically and compassionately about what they see online.
6. Build trust through what you do – benevolence, competency, honesty, openness, reliability, etc.
7. Make work purpose driven.
8. Provide clarity and maintain a positive attitude.
9. Make teamwork magical and spark innovation.
10. Set up remote choice boards or playlists
11. Design remote friendly assessment methods.
12. Reserve time to brainstorm together about possible ways to address the problems encountered.
13. Portray it as a shared group process rather than as a character or quality of the ‘leader’.
4. Due to the introduction of NEP 2020 and due to post COVID conditions will the vision of schools change across?
Introduction to NEP with its multifaceted learning opportunities is a boon to both teachers and learners; this should be a welcome call to enable the learners take the choices according to their interests and facilitate their learning process.
There have been both positive and negative impacts of COVID-19, on student equity and inclusion
The positives are:
1. Greater appreciation for importance of public schools
2. Inclusion of technology - reboot of education in countries of the developing world.
3. Investing in education for a changing world
4. Formation of learning pods.
The negatives are:
1. Technology risks becoming a costly distraction.
2. An exacerbation of disparities in learning opportunities.
Here are some of the changes needed in the vision of schools and school managements
1. Support for teachers’ needs
2. Enhance consultation and communication mechanisms
3. Ensure strong leadership and coordination.
4. Focus on addressing learning losses and preventing dropouts particularly of marginalised groups.
5. Expand the definition of RTE and include connectivity entitlement.
6. Strengthen data and monitoring of learning.
7. Strengthen the articulation and flexibility across levels and types of education and training – hybrid learning and quasi-individualised learning pathways, a mix of pedagogies and approaches.
Finally, the ultimate mission is ‘recovering education post pandemic’, and here are some suggestions -
1. All children must receive tailored services needed to meet their learning, health and psychosocial well-being needs.
2. All schools must provide comprehensive services to recover learning losses.
3. Provide remedial education.
4. Schools to incorporate socio-emotional learning into their teaching.
5. All schools to incorporate digital technology to improve foundational literacy and numerical skills.
6. Teachers must receive training to promote knowledge sharing.
7. Promote peer learning in strengthening education recovery.
8. Forge stronger, more trusting relationship between parents and teachers.
9. Shifting mind set towards schools and learning systems.
10. Emphasis on lifelong learning.
11. Creating new learning pathways with AI
12. Throwing away the norms of passive knowledge transfer – impetus on making academic learning a more hands on program.
13. Learning about sustainability, product development, apprenticeship teaching and maker learning.
14. Skilling people to strive and to seek technical skills which remain essential and soft skills will gain prominence.
5. What are Top 3 topics under NEP 2020 that you wish to focus on in your school?
The top three topics under NEP 2020 that I wish to focus on in my school is
1. Transformation in the culture of assessment
Continuous tracking of learning outcomes of each student
Focused assessment in core concepts, higher order and foundation skills
Self-assessment and peer assessment
The role of the national testing agency in offering high quality common aptitude tests, elimination of taking coaching classes conducted by various private institutions
2. Holistic development of the students
Integrated curriculum for curricular, extra and co-curricular, art and science, sports and vocational crafts
Holistic report card - Usage of Artificial Intelligence for identifying specific aptitude of child
Vocational education - Internship with craftsperson
Progress card including self-assessment, peer assessment and teacher assessment
3. Empowering teachers
Improving service environment through better infrastructure at school
Autonomy for teachers in choosing aspects of pedagogy in classroomTeacher professional development - merit based, continuous professional progress
Career growth for teachers within a single school stage i.e., Foundational, Preparatory, Middle or Secondary
6. The NEP 2020 does not differentiate between curricular and co-curricular activities. In the post Covid schools, how feasible do you think this change are? How can schools manage this change?
Schools are considered as second home for students. This change will definitely ensure shaping students’ future lives. Students learn in an experimental manner. Extracurricular activities help to learn and develop holistically by using multiple skills and abilities.
Schools can manage this change by including activities such as projects, debates, quiz, field trips, role play, creative writing, etc. Art integrated learning helps to bridge content of different subjects in logical, learner-centric and meaningful ways.
Curriculum/topics should be integrated with linguistic abilities. For example, role play, narration, ‘nukkad natak’, etc. Art integrated learning as pedagogy at school level provides creative space to students to explore experience and express without worrying about being assessed.
7. Your message for teachers.
Teaching is a noble profession and we have been proving it time and again by adapting ourselves to all challenges that prevailed. The pandemic unfolded a hidden mystery. We as educators, were not apprehensive about the changes. But, we were prepared to give our best to the most vulnerable sector- the students- who faced the brunt of the effects of the pandemic.
We have learnt to stabilise ourselves and have passed the test of time. We can pat our backs to proceed further to meet any challenges/obstacles that come our way. Let’s be in all of this together.
A change has always created a revolution. This in turn, can make a new era of effective learning.
Keep Inspiring Hope… Igniting Imagination… Instil Learning…
This article originally appeared in the TeacherTribe.world e-magazine, October 2022 edition.