Mr. Sathish Jayarajan, Principal, Mallya Aditi International School, Bangalore
This is a crisis. Any success in dealing with it is predicated on robust, resilient, diverse and hardworking teams.Mr. Sathish Jayarajan
Virtual Classrooms, while not unknown earlier, became ubiquitous (among the digitally privileged) during the pandemic. Talking meaningfully about virtual innovative teaching and learning needs reference to a complex larger picture. Transitioning a whole school to a, largely, virtual mode entails a re-imagining of schooling. New questions were being asked and needed to be answered. The heart of the issue was not technology. It entailed educational philosophy, pedagogy, wellness, human connection and a host of other granular details. It is difficult to be innovative if you feel scared and unsupported. Virtual classrooms were only one piece in a much more complex milieu which needed to be consciously put in place. The core values and commitments of the school (being child centered and staff supportive, for example) had to be articulated differently, not forgotten. This cannot be accomplished by one person. Collective, collegial leadership was, now, the only way to make sense of this complicated moment. The need for an experienced, diverse, thoughtful, resilient and deeply committed leadership team became compelling. Fortunately we already had one. They came at the same problem from different perspectives, they asked questions, they were not afraid to disagree and they made things happen. They kept the school going. This entailed constant review, active engagement and continuous tweaking and problem solving. Aditi online, like its physical avatar, is a work in progress led by a really hard working, plain speaking and talented team.
Good and Innovative teaching and learning, at its heart, in a virtual space is no different from all good teaching. It is diverse, imaginative and engaging. Sateja Joshi who is Head of Professional Development at Aditi articulated this based on her experience in preparing us for the new kind of classroom. As she often does, she evoked a metaphor:
As a Director of the movie, the teacher has to get the best performance from her/his cast. As Pandemic Pedagogy, a theme based method helps, humor helps, sympathy and understanding helps. Your script needs to be strong, relevant, entertaining and thought provoking. A student also needs to be given a day off, if he is in a spot of bother. Students relate online to a variety of techniques used by the teacher. There are plenty of graphics, graphs and diagrams online. There are also ready-made videos where adults talk you through the material. None of that can match the teacher in online class who can connect… She/he has to put different students or groups of students in the spotlight and watch them proudly. It does not matter what grade you teach, as the Director of your movie, in front of the camera, there is always time to make the non-speaking parts as inclusive, as important and as relevant as the lead roles. That is what the Pandemic Pedagogy needs to do.
This feature is entitled Effective Principals. I think the present moment cries out for collective leadership. I am privileged to be part of this team that led from the front:
Joel Kribairaj (Administrator and Admissions Officer; Dr. Neena David (Head of Counselling); Sateja Joshi (Head of Professional Development); Navaz Hormusjee (Head of Elementary School); Hema Mandanna(Head of Middle School); Geeta Paul (Head of High School); Preeti Sarin (Head of Pre-University and Higher Education Advisor); Rekha Chari (Head of Advocacy and Outreach).