An interview with Mrs. Rema Nandakumar

Rema Nandakumar is the principal of Mount Litera Zee School, Bangalore. In a career spanning 24 years, she has worked as a teacher for 14 years and as a principal for 10 years. She has a double Masters degree in Economics and Education.
In this interview, Mrs. Rema talks about creating future leaders and the importance of parent-teacher-school relationship in schools.

1. As the Principal of the school which has been credited as the 'largest unit for Zee learn's Pre Primary section in India', what do you think has helped the school reach this position?

The one thing that I have noticed in my school, is the approach of the teachers towards the children. The teachers are the second mothers of the children. They are the ‘backbone’ of the pre-primary section. Apart from teaching, they also take care of the children and cater to them at an emotional level. This is one of the major reasons that has helped the school achieve this success.
Other aspects include, the curriculum, the training programs the teachers undergo and the personal touch to everything they do.
2. 'Creating future leaders' is the vision of the founders of the school. How important is it to inculcate leadership qualities in children from an early age?
Children grow, perceptions and inhibitions are formed. But, when they are young, it is easier to make them understand and teach, as they are free of preconceived notions. So, teaching a child about things like leadership is important at an early stage.
3. What are the key ingredients that are necessary for a smooth running of a school?
The most important thing for a school to run smoothly are good teachers. A school needs good motivators too, and the best person to motivate these teachers and the students, is the principal. It is the principal’s duty to appoint good leaders and allot or delegate work for them.
Another important aspectis to maintain a good rapport with the parents and stakeholders. As we all know, the child is at the top of the triangle and it is the teachers and the parents at the two ends at the bottom. So, the two pillars which support the child on the top, need to be connected and cooperative. If all this is maintained, a school can run smoothly.
4. How important and difficult is it to maintain a school – parent or teacher – parent relationship? 
It is in the hands of the teachers to create a good relationship with the parents and maintain it. A teacher’s duty is to be open and approachable with the parents. The equation between them should be such that the parent should be very comfortable to talk to and interact with the teachers at any given time.
Speaking in particular about our school and our school-parent relationship, we have a relationship manager who sees to it that the relationship between the parent, teacher and the school is smooth. Parent teacher meetings are regularly organised and both the teachers and parents know what is happening on the other side.
5. What is important for a good principal-teacher relationship?
The relationship between a principal and the teachers should be such that the teachers should have confidence in the principal that he/she will solve problems and will be there for them whenever needed. There should be mutual understanding and, the relationship should never be of that of a boss and his subordinates.
In our school, the relation between the principal and the teachers is like the relation between a mother and her children.
We have meetings once a week and I interact with them. This is an informal way of connecting with the teachers. It helps them to open up about the problems they face and for me, to connect with them.
6. How important are extracurricular activities in schools? Does excluding class 9 & 10 students from extracurricular activities, help them achieve better grades?
Extracurricular activities are one of the most important aspects in school. Sometimes children don’t understand the importance of a few things and concepts. These aspects can be taught with the help of co-curricular activities, in a fun way.
No, excluding class 9-10 students from these activities will not help. A child should not stop his/her music, dance or sport classes, just because he/she is in class 9-10. It is these activities that help children to take their mind off from studies and relax. Instead of excluding them from extracurricular activities, these activities can be used as a motivation to achieve academic success.
7. A model of having continuous teacher training and teacher development programs are important for teachers. Comment.
In our school, we have formal need based and subject based training programs. As the name suggests, these training programs cater to the areas that need to be tapped.
Sometimes, motivation is very important for the teachers. These training programs come into the picture, as they develop self-confidence and helps them in their personal growth.
8. You have had a vast teaching experience of more than 20 years and you have handled children of various age groups over these years. How different is it to handle the children in the past and the children today?
The major difference between the students then and now, is that the children now are self-learners. Earlier, we had to teach everything. Today, the methodology of teaching has changed; teachers are just facilitators. Children walk into class with a lot of information. Our duty is just to guide them in the right direction.
9. What is your message for young, aspiring teachers?
Teaching is a profession which needs patience, love and affection towards children. “Come to this profession only if you love doing it”, is my message to the young, aspiring teachers.