top of page

Teachers Are Situational Leaders


Founder Director, The Orchid School, Pune

Dr. Lakshmi Kumar is a well-known educationist and an Intercultural Coach. Her expertise spans from establishing quality schools, building teams, developing educational processes, and initiating best practices – for both school and higher education.

She is the Founder Director of The Orchid School, Pune. As the Founder Director and the visionary for educational process that is meaningful and relevant, she strives to bring teaching practices, methods, curriculum in alignment with today’s generation of learners. She specialises in social studies, integrated, inter-disciplinary curriculum, inclusive education and Life Skill Education for young adults, training them for media literacy, critical thinking and decision-making process. She provides a range of training services and consultation in the areas of education, coaching leaders, quality initiatives and school improvement programs.

Her special competence is in training international assignees to the Indian Business environment, especially the HR Processes like hiring, team building, leadership styles, feedback systems, communication styles, etc.


1. How is your school factoring NEP 2020 into the school plans?

Education is one of the most important components for ensuring a country’s development as they exert considerable influence in determining society’s progress pace. Literacy is one of the index criteria. The NEP 2020 has been formulated to upgrade the education system. The efficiency of any policy can only be concluded once it has been executed. If prudently implemented, it can become the harbinger of a new dawn in the country. Some of the initiatives at The Orchid School (TOS) are –

  • Introduction of new pedagogical structure

  • Change in orientation and vision of curriculum.

  • Exposure for the student population to vocational education

  • Skills-based training beyond the text-book oriented syllabus.

  • Equitable and inclusive education process with an onus on the holistic development of students

  • Different techniques (including experimental) in managing the academic and education system.

2. As an administrator, what do you think are the most important things that schools should be prepared for with the introduction of NEP 2020?

Five pillars of enrollment:

  • The mindset of being open minded and seeing the merit in NEP is the first requirement.

  • A willingness to unlearn and relearn, as NEP is futuristic so there is no resistance for change. What worked well in the past will not be relevant and we live in a very VUCA world.

  • Collective envisioning the future based on NEP, so it becomes a shared vision.

  • Transforming the teaching-learning process

  • Stakeholders’ enrolment so everyone is on the same page – parents, teachers, students, board of directors, community partnership, etc., need to align to our expectations and thus management.

3. What according to you are the major differences between Indian schools and schools abroad? How can that be bridged? What are some of your suggestions for the same?

Education is organic, it keeps growing and evolves with time and the human mind. This is the major reason why education provided in different nations of the world is different.

Education System in many developed nations is designed in such a way that it focuses on preparing students for life, unlike the Indian education system that prepares students for colleges and university entrance exams.

In India, education is a formality, part of routine; every Indian must get a degree in Engineering or Medical stream, whether you learn something or not. Schools in India tend to focus on content, board exams, scores and entry to higher education. Rote learning and memorisation are highly valued in traditional schools. However, there is a huge effort to make paradigm shift both at policy levels and strategy level. When schools begin to see the holistic development of the child and student well-being as a significant objective, we begin to look at student centric education as a possibility. NEP and NCF are guiding roadmaps for such shifts.

School education must focus on skills and values and content that are relevant and has real life application. Vocational approach to learning along with appropriate choice of technology, blended with more experiential education, will make learning more joyful. We need to reduce drudgery and promote a more collaborative learning environment. Schools need to bring all arts and physical education on par with and include it as an integral part of curriculum. Our classrooms need to be inclusive and accommodative of students from different social backgrounds and different abilities.

4. These days, teacher empowerment is becoming a challenge. How can you facilitate teachers to upgrade themselves?

For education systems to be improved, the teacher is one of the variables that must be changed. Teachers are expected to respond adequately to the pressing demands of the modern world and to the growing concerns of the educational community, expected to be highly professional and to have considerable expertise to guarantee qualified and successful educational processes and practices. When our society is going through rapid changes, our learners embody and represent such rapid changes in their engagement in classrooms. Our learner profiles are very different from what our training equipped us with. The role of the teacher and the need for empowerment needs to be emphasised as they remain to be the main contributors towards student learning. But for educators to be able to accomplish this, they need to constantly learn, unlearn and relearn in order to gain more knowledge, skills and right attitude towards their role. This entails empowering themselves that would enable them respond adequately to challenging and the demanding needs of modern society. It is important to have a broader voice in educational affairs of the learners which can only be attained where teacher preparation as well continued updates of teacher’s competence are done.

Empowerment begins with the boosting of teacher status where they are treated like professionals and by this, they retain control over their own practice and over the decisions that affect their own classrooms. There are few dimensions of teacher empowerment at The Orchid School which include: professional development where teachers are provided with opportunities to grow, develop, learn continuously; teachers' autonomy in decision making and to be able to be creative in teaching learning processes, teaching methods among others. At a personal level, the school treats an individual teacher with respect on their professional knowledge and the genuine support from leadership team and colleagues.

We create opportunities that are formal and informal for teachers to influence, create and implement the curriculum. The school provides teachers access to resources (financial, time, opportunities, etc.) to identify and solve problems related to their classroom to ensure they can help all students learn. Teacher evaluation which are objective, tailored towards teachers identified need based on one’s strength or weakness and are aligned to areas of improvement.

5. It is of the general opinion that teachers need to be given freedom to be creative and innovative. How is that being provided in your school? What are the challenges and limitations?

The idea that teachers need to be ‘given’ freedom by someone is a misrepresentation. It is important to acknowledge that teachers come with situational freedom, freedom within the framework and above all, freedom with responsibility. If teachers experience autonomy and trust from the leaders, the idea of teachers having freedom gets real.

Teachers are true situational leaders, and they have their classroom to nurture and inspire. The core foundation for teacher freedom is trust. Trusting our teachers and encouraging their creativity to blossom are two sides of the same coin.

Another important aspect of experiencing freedom is to create spaces for teacher voices and their authentic representation of their interests. An organisation climate that is embedded in teacher’s empowerment will promote teacher voice. Teachers, when encouraged to participate in decision making that governs their professional life – to have a say in rules, regulations, their work distribution, annual calendar, volunteering for events, opportunities for team and collaborative work, leadership opportunities and other aspects truly are liberating ways of freedom.

6. Education administration is increasingly distancing itself from the soul of education. How can there be balance between academic growth and administrative challenges?

It is true that education administration can be overwhelming and overriding the education objectives. It is also partly a routine that one gets immersed in. These are also two inseparable parts of the coin. A well administered organisation is like the oil for the engines, and it gives smooth ride for academic processes. Academic leaders step up for many reasons, including because they believe they can make a difference. Yet, academic leadership comes with substantial challenges. Such administrators often find themselves exhausted as they burn the candle at both ends. Concerns, requests and demands come from every side - students, staff members, faculty members, and from administrators above them. Maintaining balance as an administrator, then, requires setting limits.

The best leaders learn how to delegate duties, making good decisions about the tasks that truly need their attention. Rather than feeling that you must manage everything, think creatively about how to make the job doable - and in ways that allow you the time to handle the responsibilities you can do well. When leading, it is important to engage face-to-face with those you lead. Actively engaging is an investment. Regular meetings, coffees or lunches that are aimed at building or maintaining relationships rather than solving a specific issue are key. Without open communication flows, problems tend to snowball. Spending one-on-one time with those you lead helps limit some of the most challenging situations that you will face as an administrative leader.

While being an administrative leader may be a major commitment, many positions still require leaders to engage in teaching, advising and administrative work. Rather than allowing your leadership work to bleed into every moment of the day, scheduling blocks into your calendar helps clarify and support your priorities.

7. How do you motivate your teachers and fellow educators…any advise or quote you would like to share?

A leader has many roles, but one of the most influential is that of empowering teachers to engage and motivate them. Cultivating an environment with this kind of engagement starts with the collective belief that teachers and leaders, working together, can make a difference for young people. In my three decades of being an educational leader and administrator, I learnt from many leaders and mentors who have mastered the skill of engaging and motivating their staff. From my practitioner’s perspective, I have identified a couple of ways we can help our teachers feel empowered, effective and motivated in their work.

Listening requires the discipline to hear more than we speak. I once worked with a coach who used to say, “I have two ears and one mouth for a reason.” By focusing on listening, I could truly understand what teachers said to one another, how they said it, how they valued one another, and how individual teachers identified themselves within the context of the whole staff.

Building teachers up. My role is to identify how each one fits together as a team, model and celebrate success without competition, and make sure to build teacher confidence, motivation and engagement through positive feedback and support. When we do these things, our school culture reflects a collective mission that students—and the staff who support them—are all contributing members of the school community. When this happens, motivation and engagement will increase, creating a cycle that feeds the positive school environment all students deserve.

“Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in our charge.” - Simon Sinek

bottom of page