The Approachable Teacher

Building a strong team

Author:Mr. Trilok Singh Bist  

Today the teacher-student relationship has become very commercial and involves a give and take relationship

Take us through your early life. Childhood, growing up, and education during your school life.

I’ve been a very bright child academically. I think education during our times was way simpler with lesser burden to carry back home. We had the evenings free for play and that helped in preparing us for life. Our teachers were also very focused.

Today, teaching has become commercialized and teachers also tend to focus more on tutoring and coaching classes. Children are forced to attend tuition classes. Students today need holistic development which teachers are unable to offer. Furthermore, with so much information available at hand today, children are confused as to what they must do. In this sense also , there is no guidance that comes from teachers. In our times, the teacher-student bonding was phenomenal. That bonding or teachers remembering students’ names years later also, gave a very personalized touch and made it more convenient for us to relate to the world around us while we were guided well. Today the teacher-student relationship has become very commercial and involves a give and take relationship. Nothing extends beyond classrooms since there are various means to learn and to attend to.

As Principals, it becomes our responsibility to be able to incorporate this basic feeling among teachers and I feel in the years of my service here at Jodhamal, I have been able to achieve that!

Your personal experience as a parent/ educator

I remember when my son wanted to pursue football seriously, there were a few oppositions saying he must finish engineering and concentrate on academics. But I have always believed in holistic development and pursuing one’s dreams and today’s kids need that support and space. So, we let him continue his passion for football and we were proud parents to see wonderful results in the form of winning international championships and trophies. We now have a football champion in our house!

As educators, as parents and guides it is our duty to ensure we provide active support and freedom to the children so that they may follow their passion.

Challenges faced at work. Balancing work and family life

Fortunately for me, the entire family is affiliated to the school. My kids were in my school and my wife also works here, so I’ve never had an issue on that front!

Leadership – What are the challenges you face as a leader/Principal?

The initial challenge while I came into Jodhamal, was being accepted. I had come from Dehradun and the members here were not prepared to welcome an outsider. I had been imported and was an outsider. Initial acceptance was a challenge and it took time for me to get a structure in place. But we were good to go within the first few months. Leadership about acceptance and about building a strong team who have great ideas. Again, someone in the team might have a better idea than me, at such points we have open discussions and if an idea is mutually agreed upon, we work around it!

What according to you is the purpose of education?

Open the minds of students. Open doors and windows of the student’s mind and help him/her use logic and wit to tackle the situation. In today’s world, it is very important to learn the skill of being street smart. Students need to be able to think and apply their thoughts in real life situations to succeed in life.

Leadership about acceptance and about building a strong team who have great ideas.

Tell us about a recent book you read or a recent film that inspired you and your key learning as a school leader from it.

To Sir with Love, by E.R. Braithwaite was a book I loved wherein an African teacher won the hearts of American students with the effortless and unique ways in which he conducted himself. It touched upon sensitive issues of racism in the society. I admire the film and its treatment. It was very inspiring and I felt it is so important for us to adapt, and to accept diversity!

How do you constantly keep the learning curve going for yourself

Leadership has taken various forms- inspirational, autocratic, democratic and so on. But I feel there cannot be only one correct form of leadership. It has to be a blend of all. What works in today’s scenario best would be situational leadership- one that can tackle with different situations and react to the situation accordingly!

I attend workshops, conferences, and have been a regular speaker for various Principal summits. I have led an inclusive education project in Dubai all of which I feel have added to my learning curve.

Governance – What are the key highlights of the advice you would give to your teachers/ staff at the beginning of each session?

I want the teachers to be effective teachers. Effectiveness in teaching does not come with academic success only. There has to be a strong teacher-student bonding. A bond between the teacher and taught is important. They need to connect at a deeper level for complete learning to happen. And that bond is the most effective tool to ensure that learning will occur. There is again a difference between friendliness and being over friendly. It is important to connect with students but again the line must not be crossed. The teacher should be caring and warm. The children should be waiting for the teacher to walk into the classroom with a ‘look forward to’ attitude for the teacher and that is when you feel a bond has been created!

We need to invest a huge amount on our teachers. It seems to be a big concern today. What teachers have learnt needs to be unlearned and relearned according to the 21st century. We have a few staff development programs for their leadership and training. They need to go out there interact with other members of the community which only helps them grow. Teachers need to mould their ways of teaching, they need to be more adaptive to sustain in the education space. This is the kind of adaptiveness we need today!

How would you groom teachers/staff to become leaders of tomorrow?

I ensure that the teachers also keep updating themselves. They keep reading and I keep discussing with them. I ensure they are on their toes and keep updating themselves with fresh skills.  What did they pick up from a film or a book? We keep having workshops around the year and we look at about 8-10 workshops a year. Teachers are asked to attend, to learn and continue learning, only then would they be able to match up to the smart students of today, who can find information at just their fingertips.

It is important to have a good blend of technology and personal guidance for the students. Only chalk talk does not work and neither will complete technology dependence help. It has to be a classic blend of both wherein the teacher can also learn and accommodate the child’s needs while guiding the child with their experience.

The teacher needs to filter information and pass it on to the students.

What are the activities that students engage in? What is their relevance/ importance in their development?

There are workshops, seminars, discussions, debates and digital classes for the students throughout the year. Some of the activities that the students indulge in are:

International Award for Young People – Is the experiential learning platform for kids, wherein the Jodhamal student goes to the adopted village Ismailpur Kothe (Bishnah Tehsil) of Jammu District, interacting and working neck to neck with their counter-parts in the society. Our students are also contributing to create awareness among the people for conservation of water, energy, heath and birth control.

International Studies Association – We introduced the learning by doing concept via our association with the British Council. Jodhamal students regularly organize Street Plays & Nukkad Nataks for social awareness on Women Empowerment, Water Conservation and other relevant issues.

Story Telling Methodology (Pre Primary to Class VIII)- To add innovative practices using the inter disciplinary approach,  to know the methods of preparing the props and the teaching aids and to make teaching learning a more interesting affair.

Digital Education – Each teacher is trained to use the digital boards and modules to make their lessons more interesting.

Play way Method used to teach students.

Developing MUN Culture and the Youth Parliament to enhance a child’s outlook.

The activities help the students develop a passion and eventually lead to holistic development.

Innovation – How has the teaching learning process changed from your times to now or a decade ago to now? How do you/ the school meet the current needs of students considering the area Jammu is very disturbed?

We have all kinds of facilities at Jodhamal and ensure that students are nurtured with care.  Smart classes have been introduced long back and are used religiously. Our school is the only school with an international award by British Council for having successfully mentored around 8-10 schools in Jammu to make them better. We have adopted 3 government schools and 8 teachers go to these schools on Saturdays to share knowledge, best practices etc. This is a public-private partnership among schools. In that respect we are really looking at a very bright scenario.

Open doors and windows of the student’s mind and help him/her use logic and wit to tackle the situation. In today’s world, it is very important to learn the skill of street smartedness.

What is the one thing that you would like to/are trying to introduce in the school blending with the latest trends so that students may be prepared for challenges of tomorrow?

We have introduced storytelling and various creative forms of presentation from the initial classes itself. Students come up with unique ideas and concepts for presentation. Also, I feel it is very important to foster creativity. We are killing the child’s creativity by telling him this is right and this is wrong. As a principal, I really look forward to bringing this change and give freedom to children to express themselves freely. Creativity and imagination of the child must be catered to more closely by educators for I feel that it is extremely important.

Pedagogy – Your experiences of working with RTE students and inclusiveness?

I have not done so in Jammu yet but in the past while I was in Dehradun, I remember going to villages and interacting with different students. The students there are really enthusiastic and most of them are extremely bright. My management was very cooperative and I could give admission to 10 students who were below the poverty line. There are a few things in life that really matter. I still hear from some of these students who are doing well in their careers and remember me occasionally. It is such a satisfying feeling!

What are the key values that a school/ institute must instill in students?

Being good human beings- Students nowadays have become extremely carefree with no respect and values.

Values and traditions- A school must leave no stone unturned to ensure the correct values are passed on to students.

Building life Skills- You can catch a fish or give a fish to someone. If you teach them how to catch a fish they will never starve. So, picking up the skills is more important than getting the result/rewards.

What is that one strong belief you have and what is the message you would like to give to fellow educators/ institutions in the making?

Love your children. For any teacher, this is of utmost importance. I am still a teacher and take economics lessons for grades 11 and 12. It is important to connect with students and teaching is the best way that it can be done. Just love your students and learn how to adapt and learn continuously.

Effectiveness in teaching does not come with academic success only. There has to be a strong teacher-student bonding.

Quick 7

I would describe education as….
A tool that makes students better human beings.

You’ve been both a teacher and a principal, which one do you enjoy more and why?
Being a teacher always. I am still a teacher and shall continue to be so. The love and affection you get as a teacher is never the same in case of a principal

What are the 3 qualities that schools can/should look at nurturing in students for them to be prepared for tomorrow?

  • Skill Development
  • Value Based Education
  • Better Human Beings- Holistic education
What are the 3 key qualities that educators/teachers must have/must build to connect with students today?

  • Put your ego aside
  • Be ready to come down to the level of students
  • Approachability and warmth
Give us one technological advancement in recent times that you think has changed the way in which children learn. Why is it important?
Virtual Reality that promotes imagination and thought along with creativity.

What is that one quality that will make students stand out tomorrow?
Originality and creative thought. Divergent thinking must be nurtured

Your biggest learning from life has been…
Honesty. Be honest and sincere in your work and things will work out

Teachers need to mould their ways of teaching, they need to be more adaptive to sustain in the education space.

About the Author

Mr. Trilok Singh Bist
A visionary educationist with 25 years of experience in teaching and in school administration, Mr. Trilok Singh Bist is the Principal of Jodhamal Public School, Jammu since April 2012. Mr. Bist takes pride in proclaiming that he did bring changes in the lives of these students by providing full scholarship to the students of poor families much before RTE was established. He has recently been awarded the prestigious International School Award by the British Council for outstanding development of international learning in the curriculum, Meritorious Services Award by IAYP and the Best Principal in the J&K and Himachal Regions by SOF and British Council, for the fourth year in a row from 2012-2015. As a Principal in Jodhamal Public School, he has been working as the Chief Executive Officer of the School and shares his experiences with MENTOR while he has been running the school efficiently with his meticulous planning.

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