Challenges of Mentoring the Mentors
During my first innings in the army, on various occasions I observed and felt that it is difficult for a group of officers to immediately fall in line. The reason could be the common status, different experiences and exposure of the corps and the units and personal beliefs of leadership and competence. But overall it always without fail delivered the desired results; may be because of a common threshold of competence, compassion and the basic training as an officer.
Now I am well in my second innings – almost twenty years with teachers. I am interacting with 150 teachers who have diversified interests, firm beliefs, different experiences and exposure, who are unwilling to grow, are short of passion and commitment. It is not a commentary on my teachers but the story is same which is shared during various workshops, conferences, etc of heads of schools and principals. I have ventured to analyze the reasons for this — one could be the satisfaction quotient of parents and the students; so why do something different, why put in extra effort and bring in a new situation to negotiate. The second reason could be the lack of confidence being stagnant in the same position year after year and may be the indifferent attitude of Principals and not getting their share of appreciation.
Another very important aspect of this whole issue is the willingness for future readiness. The challenges of change are one issue which needs to be tackled with full preparation and unlearn and relearn the system of teaching and learning in the new context. No one can keep herself/ himself in a water tight compartment anymore. If they do not permit even a whiff of change to enter in their safe cool cocoon, the system, the tool and the pupil all will stagnate and start decaying.
These facilitators operate at graduated levels of system over a period of time; most of them draw a ‘Lakshman Rekha’ around themselves which they do not wish to cross. To draw them out of their safe comfort zone and make them negotiate the new trends/ concepts in pedagogy, curriculum, activities and approach, is a difficult call for any principal to take. New words are being continuously created — though any colour can be made from 3 primary colours, all music emanates from 7 basic notes and all text is written from 26 letters in English. I feel that it is absolute necessary for the school head to interact with each one of the precious tools and appreciate the things from their point of view. The size of the institution and the call of the administrative responsibilities may not be easy for one individual to do justice to the increased responsibilities. Shall we divide the responsibility; a Principal for academics and a Principal for administration. This may ease the responsibility but will create different kinds of problems – that is who is the senior and who will take orders/instructions from whom? This feeling of superiority and seniority may upset the whole system. I am not in favour of two Principals as it will create lot of avoidable problems but at various levels we may have coordinators or incharges who should report to the school head on a daily basis honestly and objectively. The school head should be mentally prepared to work beyond the school hours to do justice to his/her responsibility. The school head also needs to lead the team by example, keep motivating and updating the teachers periodically, organise informal activities where one could be part of the event and relate with teachers on individual basis. It is a very ticklish situation but the head of the school needs to be flexible, vigilant, dispassionate but compassionate enough as role model to tackle the challenges of the mentors as you are dealing with informed and intelligent individuals who are aware of mega-trends which need to be augmented in the existing ones. Keep juggling for a happy and captivating performance.
To summarise, I think the challenge – mentoring the mentors – can be tackled with some of the under mentioned strategies :-
(a) The highly skilled and motivated workforce needs to be well led and to be effectively deployed for optimum utilisation.
(b) All should have access and should embrace new technology for optimum utilisation of resources.
(c) Focus of teachers should be on providing excellent personalised education and development focusing on the needs of all the pupils. Provide range of activities and opportunities to all of them to enrich their own lives. This enrichment may percolate to students, families and the wider community.
I would like to conclude with the views of John F Kennedy:
‘Challenge is the law of life; and those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.’
Col Dr K S Saini, a retired army officer with a doctorate in Literature from Colombo University, is running two reputed schools in Haryana. His leadership and commitment towards quality education and social empowerment has been recognised by many national and international organisations. He received the best principal award from Mahatma Gandhi Rastrabhasa Hindi Prachar Samiti, education excellence award from Silverzone Organization, Bharat Vidhya Shiromani award from Indian Solidarity council among many other awards.
He has written extensively on school education for a number of newspapers and journals.