Mentoring – Dr. Ashok Kumar Pandey

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This interview is the eleventh in the series of responses from eminent academician. Dr. Ashok Kumar Pandey, Principal, Ahlcon International School, (Global Perspective, Indian Values) responds to the questions of Principals 

about effective qualities of  ‘Principal as Leader’

Ms. Shanti Krishnamurty
Principal, Chinmay International Residential School, Coimbatore
Q: A principal may be required to work with teachers having varied philosophies on best educational practices like grading scales, homework, curriculum and collaboration or student discipline. As a Principal, how do you bring different styles together to create a climate of progress and collaboration?

There is no dispute on curriculum and grading scales. These are by and large mandated. Collaboration is the way forward. That is also a conduit to bring out the best educational practices and solving problems within the school community. School leaders who endeavour to develop a culture of learning and collaboration are the ones who are effective. The objective here is to improve the learning outcomes of the students.

Ms. Prabhavathi Nambiar
Principal, GEM International School, Vellikkeel, Kerala
Q:The duties or responsibilities of a Principal never end. Despite the ‘important to-dos’ something keeps cropping up. As an experienced educational administrator, how can you manage your time effectively while trying to accommodate such unpredictable events?

True, principal’s job is 24X7. Managing and leading a school today is vastly different from what it used to be in the past. Leadership, therefore, is more demanding today. Several strategies could be deployed. Separating the important from the urgent, delegation, sound time management and appointing right people for the right job are some of the useful tools. Preference must always be given to the learning and behavioural needs of the children. Personally, I have a great team, and I trust them completely. They know I am around to hold their hands and I am aware they are around to make things easy for me.

Dr. Manisha Metha
Principal, Excelsior American School, Gurgaon
Q: With the exception of staff development programmes, staff meetings are required to be tailor-made. As a Principal, how would you structure the meetings to ensure they are focused on academics and not merely managerial information?

Meetings, Yes! Endless meetings, No! I always suggest short, structured, focused, outcome-driven meetings. Staff meetings are a platform to communicate. It is incumbent on the principal to make it clear, understandable and convincing. If academic issues are to be discussed requiring time, the teachers attending the meeting must be informed. Another way to ensure focus is to encourage everybody to participate and invite all shades of opinion. In that case, the leader assumes the role of a moderator.

Dr. Varadarajan
Founder – Principal, NES International School, Mumbai
Q:Principals focus on developing teachers and other staff. However, an effective Principal needs to grow as well, i.e. staying up-to-date on best practices. How can the Principal manage to access own professional growth?

“An effective principal needs to grow,” couldn’t agree more. How do we do that? A quick reflection would suggest what areas need improvement. ICT training, new pedagogies, management principles, online skills development courses, research, the list is endless. School leaders must read and write. Be a part of a professional network to learn and grow and at the same time contribute to the sector. Exchanging visits to schools and learning from the best practices are very helpful. Enhancing the social media visibility is also essential. Online courses through Cousera, edx, Udacity and other MOOC platforms are very useful. People are looking up to you for leadership guidance and mentoring. Are we ready for that? All leaderships are about learning first as said earlier. You grow and let others grow should be the motto. Setting an example and practicing what one preaches are the keys to effective leadership.

Mr. Pramod Sharma
Principal, Genesis Global School, Noida
Q: How does a Principal address negative behaviour that affects the climate of the school?

There are some performance analytics available. Performance appraisals are in place. But, simply put, they don’t work. In-service teacher education programmes need to be strengthened in schools. Those who opt for teaching must have different motivation and skill sets. Schools cannot afford to be infected by the negativity and non-performance. The leadership, however, should be more of an enabler than a critique. Teacher-like qualities are nurtured over the years in an environment full of trust, growth opportunities, recognition and acknowledgment. I cannot claim to have ‘vanished’ all negatives. But the efforts have been encouraging. Persuasion has worked as the most powerful tool.

Dr. P C Thamos
Principal, Good Shepherd International School, Ooty, Tamil Nadu
Q:How to diffuse differences among staff?

The first thing we have to get out of our culture is to treat us as bosses. I recommend all school leaders to read Conversational Intelligence: How to get Leaders Build Trust and get Extraordinary Results by Judith E. Glaser. A leader has to exhibit a fine balance between human touch and professional exigencies. All our decisions must be free from favour and prejudice. All leaders have to be Mulla Nasruddin in this regard. I have experienced that trivial issues vanish as we grow professionally and evolve as human beings.

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