Sanjeeva Kumar Sinha, Principal of The Indian Public School, Dehradun is a Postgraduate in Mathematics with twenty years experience of teaching secondary and senior secondary classes. He not only manages the school but has also improved its working and efficiency levels. He has successfully linked technology with teaching in the school, thereby upgrading the methodology of imparting education. It is under his leadership that the Indian Public School has become a technology-savvy institution. Under his guidance, the school has been ranked as one of the best co-educational residential senior secondary schools in India by agencies like Education Today, Education World and Digital Learning. He is a passionate educator who is also technically savvy. Sanjeeva’s farsightedness by the way he transformed IPS into a tech-savvy school and his ‘always available attitude’ for his teachers and students certainly make him an obvious choice to be recognized as a Change Maker.
Question 1: Please let us know more about your journey, how and from where you started.
As part of my antecedents, I had to carry out my schooling in the port city of Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh where my father was posted. Thereafter, I returned to my hometown, Patna from where I completed my graduation, post-graduation, and B.Ed. I had opted for Mathematics at the post-graduation level and I feel fortunate for choosing the subject of my liking. After college, I joined a senior secondary school affiliated with CBSE in Patna as a PGT Mathematics where I taught for 12 years. My quest brought me to The Indian Public School, Dehradun. This is a purely residential school previously affiliated with CISCE, New Delhi and now affiliated with CBSE, New Delhi and Cambridge curriculum CAIE. I joined the school as HOD Mathematics and over a period of time was made the Vice-Principal. I served in this capacity for four years and was then elevated to the position of the Principal of The Indian Public School. I have been serving the school since 2009 and the last five years as the Principal. My experience at the school as a Mathematics teacher enabled me to author Mathematics textbooks for classes one to eight. I am of the view that although the onward journey never seems to stop yet it provides opportunities to the person to cross benchmarks and set new ones.
Question 2: How can you contribute towards the growth and development of the community?
I strongly feel and my experience convinces me that education is the only process through which an individual can unfold his/her innate potential. This mutating process is indeed a churning that removes the dross and sharpens the cognitive and analytical skills. In light of the observation, I find myself in a pivotal and responsible position to contribute towards furtherance of the community in which I am in constant touch and also its peripheral end that is the society at large. The most effective in terms of my contribution is to constantly and untiringly work for the academic excellence and essential skill development of my students and pedagogy alike and to keep reviewing the course of the progress made. Additionally, an aura of knowledge and skill-based environment must be maintained to make learning spontaneous and satisfactory. My prime concern is to sensitize the impressionable minds towards the needs of others so as to lace them with that humane touch which I feel is an essential part of the qualitative existence of the human race.
Question 3: What kind of support you can provide to teachers and fellow educators?
- Answering their queries related to career advancement on Forum.
- Mentoring and guiding fellow educators.
- Organising webinars or workshops for the community.
- Sharing your thoughts through blogs or write-ups.
My experience has taught me to remain accessible to the students and the pedagogical community. This encourages the maintenance of a friendly atmosphere around and provides the staff members to come for advice and guidance from time to time. My emphasis remains to advise the staff to upgrade their educational and technical skills that are an essential requirement of 21st-century pedagogy and also encourage them to keep abreast with the latest developments in the field of education. This enables the staff to effectively use technology in classroom teaching and also developing the curriculum to meet the other needs of the future. The present century seems to be in a state of flux as everything around us is changing fast and we must be well-equipped and proactive in effectively addressing changes. Training schedules, workshops, seminars, etc. are the primary requirements that are provided regularly. I myself attend the seminars that are essential to my line of duty. I have also encouraged the staff to express their views through writings and blogs. I myself tried and contribute freely to sites that are connected to education and its propagation. Your key skills which can help community members. The skills learned are best applicable when used for the benefit of the community. Towards this end, we encourage teachers and students from other schools to visit us during inter-school competitions and certain other mega-events to make them aware how students under our charge have learned organizational skills and effectively use the same in organizing big events.
Question 4: How did you deal with the challenges that you faced during the transition from an individual contributor role to a leadership role and how did you overcome those challenges?
In any Institution’s hierarchical set-up from Montessori to the managerial level of the Principal, the change occurs in phases and stages. When I joined as a PGT Mathematics I was essentially a single contributor. At the HOD level, I was a single as well as a group contributor, but at the Vice-Principal and the Principal level, my contribution predominantly became that of a leader. At every stage, I was in a position to learn and my cumulative experience made it possible for me to occupy that vital position of a leader. I must agree that every stage the challenges were different, but one thing remained the same that is the ability to troubleshoot and work with a missionary zeal to tie dead ends and meet deadlines that sometimes seemed near impossible. Nevertheless, the will to succeed and deliver carried me through challenges both administrative and academic-related. It taught me that only by being enshrined in the substratum of honesty and thus promoting transparency and deftly dealing with the students and the staff with a genuinely humane touch was the minimal requirement of the person at the helm of affairs. It would be appropriate for me to mention a few incidents related to students: the first I would like to mention unwilling learners who pose a problem for others too in the class. Well, for this group special counseling sessions were undertaken by teachers and the school counselor. Students are aware that not only the Principal but also a few senior staff members including the counselor ‘walk to walk’ and ‘talk to talk’ and this brought confidence in the students. They know that the Principal and the staff fulfill the promises and honestly address the needs of students and are transparent, humane, but firm when it comes to delaying with negative and negating tendencies. After that, they willingly adhered to the advice given. Even extra classes and remedial sessions were held to bring them at par with the average students. This transformative change sorted out many problems in the class. The same was applied related to unruly students and those who created problems at the hostel were similarly dealt with, but an additional team of select wardens and the Dean of wardens took the lead and the long-standing problem was mitigated
Question 5: How would you describe your leadership style?
I thoroughly believe that a genuine leader must be transparent, diligent, and ready to accept challenges and deal with people with a humane touch. As ‘Cleanliness is next to godliness’ similarly ‘Friendliness wins hearts and builds confidence’. My experience has taught me that true leaders are born in the hearts of people not in their minds. When the leader is genuine his actions stand better than words than the subordinates and others listen to him seriously and follow the advice given and even tend to emulate him.
Question 6: What advice would you give to a new teacher?
A new teacher in any institution is akin to a baby walking into a kindergarten class. For the new teacher the surrounding, however friendly and conducive, remains alien for some time. At the outset, he must be dealt with in a warm and friendly manner. We have to ensure that his confidence returns and he starts feeling at home then he will take over and move forward.
Question 7: What would be your ideal school environment and how would you encourage that kind of culture?
Ideally speaking creating the most creative and learning-friendly environment is comparatively easy, but difficult to sustain. The learning environment must be tension free with a lot of activities on the sidelines. The environment must be green, serene and healthy where children feel safe and willingly term it as a home away from home. Teaching and the delivery mechanism must tune with the students’ needs and liking. At the same time, an experienced pedagogy with the warmth of touch of a parent must be accessible to the students. The atmosphere must be charged with a feeling of friendliness that essentially promotes growth and development.
Question 8: How would you develop an inclusive environment in your school?
Inclusiveness is the ringtone of a well-groomed team: a large and constantly growing team with a strong feeling of one family. Accessibility at all levels must be made easy. Even the parents must be allowed to freely interact with the staff members, especially the House Masters and tutors and at intervals with their wards. This also promotes transparency and is the surest means of confidence-building.
Question 9: 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?
I must agree to the fact that in order to transform the community the person has to dedicate his life to its cause. Any principal, I am sure, hardly remains free. Most of the time the mind is occupied by plans and schemes to better the working and bring about the changes drawn on a roadmap. However, work must be allocated to competent staff members in accordance with their liking, taste, and talent and all possible assistance must be provided so that they are in a position to fulfill their responsibility. At times, it does happen, that laid out deadline has to be extended then the Principal must be at the side of the staff member to troubleshoot. This infuses spirited response in the team. I have seen this happen and have also felt that jointly any difficult task becomes easy.
Question 10: What is your opinion on the use of technology in classrooms? Were there any challenges that you faced in integrating technology?
The 21st-century requirements in the field of education are immense. Technology use is increasingly becoming part of day to day working. Effective classroom teaching, designing developmental plans and proactively introducing educational technology that would enable future teachers to contribute their bit to learning remains no more luxury so to say, but a mandatory requirement.
Question 11: Do you feel there are any gaps in the present education system? If so, how do you feel one can fill those gaps?
I feel that vocational learning must be introduced at the middle school level and students must be trained to acquire specific skills. All these are otherwise provided for by professional institutions after class twelve, but I am of the view that along with conceptual teaching skill-related vocational training must be introduced in schools. In addition to these changes that are occurring at the International level must be equated at our level so that we do not lag behind. We must remember that 65% of our population is young. In fact, at the start of the century, we are the youngest nation in the world so our youngsters must be educated to meet international standards and futuristic needs. A change in curriculum is also very much needed and new subjects should be introduced that have an important bearing on the future of the students. Technologically our labs must be upgraded and the staff well trained to guide and propel the students so that they become technically competent and become a winning force in the future for the nation.
Question 12: Your message to the community.
At the culmination of this detailed insight about the dynamics of change in education and its futuristic needs I wish to convey that at the very basis of all change that essentially occurs with the passage of time is one’s persevering spirit and untiring effort to visualize futuristic needs and the die-hard will to succeed in a time-bound manner. It requires special organizational skill and the ability to painstakingly carve a well-oiled competent team good at networking their way through difficult tasks. At the same time an empaneled think tank to work full time to anticipate needs in the future. It goes without saying that detailed planning and proper direction coupled with hard work and smart work along with a competent team full of optimism will usher in a quality change in education.
Other Change Makers