Dr. Sharmila Nagraj Nandula - A renowned academician, entrepreneur and weaver
Question 1. Please let us know more about your journey, how and from where you started?
My Journey as a teacher started when as a young girl I used to play ;Teacher-Teacher" in summer holidays with other children. Proper role play and the details of enacting what each teacher did in class. My first teaching experience was with a Fashion School. I was the first one to be recruited as the faculty on board. It was a school which gave a unique experience in design education to all those who always wanted to be a designer. It had students from all walks of life. It was quite exciting and challenging to run a class with adults. It taught me many things very early in life. I knew to impress and hold the class together it was very important to make a dent in the first class. And I started with what I knew the best and that was THE MOMENT. From there I always prepared for my class every day, encouraged students to ask questions and be curious and honestly said "I Don’t Know" if "I Didn’t Know'. Went back referred and came back with an answer. (This was no Google times) From there to the most prestigious design schools had me and I went from one class to another with the same intent and honesty. Today I teach through my experience BUT even today I prepare for each and every lecture of mine. Preparation, Consistency, Empathy, Facilitation and Inspiring students to learn and help them with ways of learning. This has been the MANTRA
Question 2. Being a Change-maker, how can you contribute towards the betterment of the community of Teachers and Principals?
I can share my teaching method, ways and what to and what not to do with students. As teachers how do make yourself completely available to the student as a good teacher and how to ease work loads of mundane protocols and regulations.
Question 3. What kind of support would you like to provide to teachers and fellow educators?
Answering their queries related to career advancement on Forums., Mentoring and guiding fellow educators., Organising webinars or workshops for community, Sharing my thoughts through blog or write-ups
Question 4. Please mention some of your skills that can help community members.
I have ways to make things simple. How to do things so that you help yourself to help students gain confidence in what they learn and do.
Question 5. The transition from an individual contributor to a leadership role must have required specific skills, what skills do you think are critical for teachers for such transition? Were there any challenges as well, If yes then how did you overcome those challenges?
Preparation, reading paying attention to student’s questions and adding those insights into the next session are very crucial. Being able to be honest and being a contributor is the way forward. I have been a learner all through my life. Learning and upgrading with the newest skills even if they are not the subjects which you teach help you get perspectives which help in building a good class session. My forte has been experiential learning. Learning by doing even if sometimes a few topics close the possibility of doing something. My challenge was always that I made things so simple that the lessons to be taught would get done and there was scope for much more and I did much more. This was a challenge for the eco system as it wanted you to go by the syllabus word by word and nothing beyond that. But somehow I got my way around to create fun time in learning all the time and kids remember. Example: I was conversing with my student after 15 years. She said ma'am you taught us how to pronounce words. "Silhouette" was the word.
Question 6. How would you describe your leadership style?
I wish to make more leaders. Pay attention to the curious and the excited. Give them directions to be enquiring, probing and researching to do more. Empathy, Compassion and Leading the students by Walking the Talk.
Question 7. What advice would you give to a new teacher?
"Be Yourself" Guide them, honestly you don't need to teach them a lot. If you can show them ways of learning 60% of your job is done.
Question 8. What would be your ideal school environment, and how would you encourage that kind of culture?
My ideal school environment is a huge Library, Labs, Workshops, Theatres and Spaces around trees. A space where children spend 80% of the time on experiential learning and 20% of the time in library along with the teachers.
Question 9. How would you develop an inclusive environment in your school?
The selection criteria of the students should be based on what the child knows in his / her experience not by how many marks he /she got or if he/she can speak good English. The school must have children from all strata of society and majorly make room for children from rural background.
Question 10. As the position of a Principal requires intense time management, how do you organize your day to meet the plethora of requirements and commitments required as the School Principal?
It’s about how you do things. When you love doing what you are doing there is no need to talk about time management its only putting things on a schedule and achieve those goals on a day-to-day basis. Keeping oneself physically fit, eat healthy and meditate to bring those good energies aligned.
Question 11. What is your opinion on the use of technology in classrooms? Were there any challenges that you faced in integrating technology?
Technology is very important now. The best of technology can bring in the best awareness and dialogue to the classroom beyond that one must know how to engage students in enquiry and research.
Question 12. Do you feel there are any gaps in the present education system? If so, how do you feel one can fill those gaps?
The present education systems make teaching difficult with too many rules and administrative deliverables. The teachers need to have space to be the planners and designers of their own course. Evaluation systems need to make way to a larger matrix which should involve peer evaluation, self-evaluation, and external evaluation.
Question 13. Would you like to share any specific message to the community of teachers and principals?
This is the most exciting and fascinating space one can be in. Come to this space only if you see this space as a space where the future of the world is made.
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