An Interview to Remember


 Miss J. Simoes. M.Com, B.Ed
 Principal, Wisdom World School & Director Schools Program
 
Miss Simoes has a wide teaching experience right from the grass root level of Pre-Nursery up to Std. XII.
 
She has taught a variety of subjects ranging from History and Geography in the Middle School, English from Classes IV to X (ICSE level).  Commerce, Economics, Commercial Applications to Stds. IX & X (ICSE), Organisation of Commerce, Business Studies and Secretarial  Practice to Stds. XI & XII in St. Mary’s Junior College of Arts & Commerce for 5 years.

Miss Simoes has wide administrative experience as Vice Principal of St. Mary’s School, Boys’ Section, Pune from 1993 to March 2006.  Thereafter, she was also the Principal of St. Mary’s School and also St. Mary’s Junior College (ISC). The Junior College ISC was started  under her leadership.

Currently heading Wisdom World School Wakad, Pune, Miss Simoes has attended various workshops and conferences at home and at the  international level. She constantly upgrades her skills and talent to be able to take her school to glorious heights.

She was recently conferred with the prestigious 'National Award for Teachers' by the President of India. Wisdom World School Wakad, has  bloomed in 4 years from a strength of 400 to 1600 under her able guidance and an excellent and experienced team of teachers.

 

 
Q.1. As a National Award Winning Principal, what do you think has helped you reach where you have?
I started my career 33 years ago in 1981, having learnt everything I could,  right from the grassroot level, beginning humbly as an Assistant to the class teacher in Ornellas School (which caters to children from Economically Weaker Sections of Society) and then qualifying myself and working my way up to class Teacher in the Primary , Middle School and Higher Secondary School in St. Mary’s School (which caters to the elite). I taught various classes and various subjects, learnt administration and execution of all educational policies of the school under my mentor Mrs. Elizabeth Matthew.  I have always kept myself abreast of new developments in education.
My passion and commitment to my vocation surpassed all other commitments and responsibilities, often neglecting my home and family.  My larger vision was to make a difference to over 2800 families at any given time as compared to looking after my own single family. I am involved in every department of the school, be it teaching, curriculum planning, concerts, extra-curricular activities, administration and execution of all school policies. So here I am now in 2014, Principal of Wisdom World School and Director of the Schools Programme of Vishwakarma Purple Educational Trust.
 
Q.2. What according to you are the key ingredients of a successful institution?
An institution that is dynamic but sensitive to the needs of all its stakeholders, especially the students, their parents, the teachers and the Management. Besides, the fact that it must keep up with all the latest technological developments while having as its foundation, valuable traditions and strong values.
It must have a management that understands educational needs of not only our children but society at large. Besides, I strongly believe that children learn by example. So a good institution must have a sterling staff of teachers who live up to their school motto. Moreover, children get influenced by their parents and the environment at home too.  So school policies should be supported by the parents. Of course the other factors that contribute to a good school, like sound curriculum planning, balanced with appropriate co-curricular activities, goes without saying. Great infrastructure is, of course, a basic factor, but of no consequence without the human element i.e. great teachers! A school is also as good as its top team comprising the Principal, Vice-Principal and Co-ordinators. Overall the ethos of the school is reflected by the Management and Principal of the School. The vision of a good school is to recognise that all children are different and that these differences create opportunities for adults and children alike to learn more about themselves and each other. Helping children to develop good attitudes and values should be the aim of a good school.
A good school should deliver a curriculum for the WHOLESOME DEVELOPMENT of a child, and one that is fitting for the 21st CENTURY. In today’s world the school should also provide a safe and secure environment with which they can seek to equip its pupils for the world of today and tomorrow, to foster self-esteem and respect for others, to widen their horizons and give them the means to reach those horizons and beyond.
 
Q.3. There is a wide view that co-curricular activities help enrich student-teacher relationship.  What is your view on this?
Of course, they do! Besides which they certainly bring to the fore the latent talent and abilities of children and help to build up their self-confidence. Sometimes, in the rush for Academic Excellence, these talents may not be spotted by the teachers. Outside the classroom and in informal settings the children and the teachers see different dimensions of each other, paving the way for wonderful communication, thereby solving many problems, which may be a result of miscommunication and misunderstanding .
 
Q.4. How do we help children struggling with learning difficulties in the classroom?
Dealing with children struggling with Learning Difficulties in the classroom needs a lot of sensitivity, patience and understanding on the part of the teachers and more importantly the parents. Parents need to be counselled about being more accepting of the problem. Once the problem is understood by the teachers and parents, the solution is easier. One-on-one handling of the child is of course the best way, or in a small group perhaps. However, that is not always possible with a large number of students in the class.  So the teacher is advised to seat the child closer upfront to the Black board or in her line of vision and attention. The 'Buddy System' is also encouraged where other children help the child with Learning Difficulties to copy down incomplete work or help the child learn informally.  Also, a private remedial class after school hours would help. These children must be encouraged not to feel defeated. Hence, certain concessions must be made for them:
  1. Set question papers which they can attempt well enough.
  2. Completing syllabus at their pace, taking their learning difficulties into consideration and teaching the syllabus according to their level of comprehension.  While it is important to challenge them, one must also set realistic goals for them, so that they never feel defeated. I emphasise that it is important to always keep their self-esteem high. 
  3. Give extra time to read and write the Question Paper.
  4. Provide a writer in the higher classes for those who may be suffering from dyslexia etc.
  5. Encourage them to take up singing, music, dance, or any other enjoyable activity, which would help them to bring down their stress and anxiety levels, thereby spotting their abilities in some other field.
Q.5. With the advent of technology into classrooms, how do you view the future of education in India?
Technology definitely enhances education. However, in schools it needs to be used judiciously by the teacher to explain difficult and abstract concepts only. You don’t need technology for everything.  Children must be taught to use their basic skills like Reading, Comprehension, Recall and Computation. In the lower age groups, the physical presence of a teacher is more important than anything else, as good values, attitudes and habits  can hardly be taught through technology. Which is what we need throughout our lives!  These are learnt through exemplary role models. A good teacher becomes better by using  technology as one of her tools. In rural areas where good teachers may be difficult to come by, technology could be used to transmit lessons etc., as is being done through satellite television and other media. Now, teachers are not bogged down making charts etc. Learning aids with DVDs etc made by experts are readily available by all textbook publishers as well as companies dealing with educational material. However, I still feel that none of these glamourous methods of teaching can replace a good and passionate teacher!  Especially in India!  I, being an English Language Teacher, have never felt the need to use any technology in my class. The atmosphere in my class is bright, interactive and fun, because the human element is at its peak. 
India is definitely not lagging behind in the use of technology. In fact, we have a great blend of both, Tradition and Technology in many of our schools. With the RTE Act and the use of technology in most government aided municipal schools, the future of India is certainly bright.
 
Q.6. Do you think the digital medium will take over a large part of education?
Yes, to a large extent. But how many schools can afford this at the moment? But that’s only a matter of time, I suppose, when it’ll be affordable by all. It can open up a world of knowledge and that too at the click of a button. However, in the process I hope our brains do not become dull and lazy and our inherent skills are not lost. Technology mustn’t just make things easier, it should be used to challenge the mind of the learner!  And for this, nothing and no one can replace the Human Teacher. He/she is the one who will provide the wisdom, while technology will provide information and to a certain extent, knowledge.
 
Q.7. You have been an institution builder.  What would be your advice to those starting new schools?  What are the three key things they need to factor before starting a school?
 I am an average person, with average wealth, average personality, average intelligence, average looks and less than average height, but with an extra-ordinary capacity to work hard. So who would I be, to advise the many wise people out there? However, I can share my experience. One can achieve anything if one has a strong sincerity of purpose. Besides one must have grit and determination to surmount obstacles.  And of course, there is no substitute for HARD WORK. While the economics of running a school is a factor to be considered, commercialisation of education should be kept at bay. Since an Educational Institution is dealing with the extremely fragile mission of nurturing young minds, one has to tread very carefully while framing educational policies and planning short and long term goals.
The three key things one needs to factor before starting a school are:
  1. Select a really good team of people who will lead by example.
  2. Good infrastructure that aids learning and provides a safe, secure and healthy school environment.
  3. Sound educational policies that inculcate Value Education especially dignity of labour.  Long before Our Honourable Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi started the 'Swach Bharat Abhiyan',  we at Wisdom World School, had started the 'Swach School' movement, wherein, everyone in the school from Principal to Peon to students sweep and swab floors, do the dusting themselves and generally keep our environment clean. This is done regularly by all classes from Std V to X, in turns, every morning before their lessons start, as part of their SUPW (Socially Useful Productive Work). Value Education will help to develop the potential in each and every child and contribute to their holistic growth and all-round development.