Norina Fernandes

Birthday: 07 January Sun sign: Capricorn Place of birth: Mumbai
Hometown: Goa

The best thing about being a teacher?
The love for children and academics have prompted me to take to pedagogy and teaching, though I had an excellent job as a micro-biologist.

How did you feel on the first day being a school principal/leader?
In 2001, I was given the signal to lead the school, after earlier accomplishing myself as a headmistress and the vice principal. As a leader I felt the mammoth weight of responsibility, being the youngest principal. I also felt that I am now going to be a vital link in maintaining harmonious relationship between my trustees and the school stakeholders i.e. my staff, my students and the parents.

The best thing about being a teacher-leader?
Being a teacher – leader was very challenging, full of many experiences and at the end of the day, I always wondered how I did it, and also so well. I did put in a lot of hard work, 24×7, thinking of the school and the best for the school.
My interest and knowledge in pedagogy took me ahead and I could deal with academics and my staff successfully.

What are the traits of an effective principal?

Norina Fernandes
Norina Fernandes

It is a difficult job first to be a principal and also to be effective. At the end of it, I feel not all are cut out to handle this.
Every principal must exhibit leadership – take successes and failures of the school. Vision is not enough it must be combined with venture.
We need to step up the stairs. It will finally define how successful the school is.
Principals should be able to connect with each person that they deal with, and earn their trust. Every stakeholder of the school, the head, the supervisors, the students, the support staff, even the parents require a different approach.
An effective principal will set high expectations and at the same time be able to hold those in charge of the same standards. One is likely to hurt feeling one should be able to offer praise whenever required always appreciate.

A principal must be organised and well prepared for everyday challenges. No one day is predictable in the school. There can be several unplanned things that can occur. Having policies and procedures in place to deal with situations will help reduce stress. One should be fair and consistent in all the dealings. I personally think all my decisions through and reason out first. I am an exceptional listener and am able to disarm the most difficult situations simply by showing those concerned that I care and I am listening to what they want to say. Education is ever-evolving. There is always something bigger and better available. If the principal is not a visionary the school will never improve since it is an on-going process. Even today my school is on a threshold of new growth, armed with wifi enability and the iPod culture for our students.
Please describe the role you feel parents should play in the operation of the school.

The purpose of PTA is to provide a structure to work together with the school for the best possible education and welfare of the children. They can form a forum through which the parents can exchange information and support the teachers to deliver the curriculum in consultation with the principal and board of management. They can help the school organise cultural festivals for their children, help raise funds and offer volunteer substitution for teachers if need be. They can have sub-committees to ensure equal participation. At my school we have a disaster management committee which networks with all parents in case of any emergency. Of course, any PTA member cannot have any say in day to day functioning of the school, in curriculum planning, in HR department of the school and lastly should not portray the school in a negative light.

When you visit a classroom, what are the first things you look for as signs that the classroom is an effective learning place?
To me a classroom is an effective learning place if there is an atmosphere of trust and respect. There should be shared control in the classroom. Students must have a say in the learning process and the teachers must make them feel independent. The teacher is the facilitator helping students achieve their educational goals. I also look for the teacher to exhibit a passion for teaching and for her subject. She should also model the behaviour she/he expects from the students. A teacher should be able to lead her class, motivate her students.

What is your vision of special education?
To assist and provide services, students to choose opportunities for their success and development. To provide support services for students with identified disabilities. To encourage their participation in extra-curricular activities and offer remedial classroom support to monitor their grades and also their behaviour. We strongly believe that all children can learn.

What is your view on QCT (Quality Circle Time)?
Quality Circle Time entails children taking turns in speaking and listening, sharing ideas, contributing to a group situation, observing, thinking, concentrating. There could be co-operative games, drama, techniques, puppet play of discussion to promote understanding. The Teacher Foundation has trained the whole school in Jenny Mosley’s Quality Circle Time. The fourth R introduced here is of relationships enhancing self-esteem, emotional intelligence and team work skills of students and teachers. It is most commonly used in primary setting. We cannot teach children moral values or valuable skills such as speaking, listening, teamwork and problem solving. They have to be involved enough to experience them, most of our lessons are designed to build a sense of class community. Though we haven’t been accredited to the QCT by Jenny Mosley in total, my staff has been instructed to follow some of the traits.

What’s your view on e-learning platform?
Various technologies are used to facilitate e-learning nowadays. The audio and the visual aspect allow both teachers and students to learn best by seeing rather than learning or reading about it. Teachers access through video clips through the internet. Using websites like YouTube is very common to enhance learning. Webcams and Skype have been used by our teachers to interact with guest speakers and exchange programmes of the British Council and the EUMIND. No doubt, results show increased retention when a video is used. Creating a systematic video development method holds promise for creating video models that positively impact student learning. Computers, tablets, iPad and also mobile devices and the interactive classroom teaching boards all support e-learning. One can also post thoughts, ideas and comments through blogs on a website and so on. In cases where mobile technologies are used, the term M-learning has become more common.

Online support services like offering worksheets, interactive exercises, learning scenarios are also becoming part of the e-learning. Computer aided assessment ranging from multiple choice tests to more sophisticated systems is also becoming common. We have been following online formative assessment in Math and English since last year. Virtual learning environment also known as learning platforms, utilise virtual classrooms and meetings with a mix of communication technologies. Students can also receive direct instruction from a qualified teacher and have direct and immediate access to their teacher for instant feedback and direction.

What’s your view on CCE?
Comprehensive and Continuous Evaluation (CCE) has been implemented in my school through class I to class VIII where the students are given grades for the formative and summative assessment. For classes IX and X we give marks so that their progress can be monitored. My school is well-versed with the CCE system since last three years and we use a variety of assessment techniques to assess the progress of every child. There is continuity in evaluation along with behavioural outcomes. Scholarship and extracurricular aspects of student growth and development are also focused on and taken into consideration. There is an all round development of the personality of a child. With CCE the teacher is able to improve a student’s performance by indentifying his/her learning difficulties regularly through formative assessment. Teachers can employ suitable remedial measures for enhancing their learning. Students do feel that there are a lot many assessments and teachers feel that their work has increased tremendously with assessments having additional descriptive indicators. CCE does not emphasize formal assessments only, rather assessments or observations are to be made in informal settings like break time, in the playfield, in the corridor, in participation and so on. Emphasis is also on tailoring instruction according to different learning styles and assessing differently and then this should form a part and parcel of each theme that is dealt with in the classroom. There should be shared lesson planning and good understanding of pedagogy. Anecdotal records are an effective way of tracking a child’s performance. These could be brief or detailed, recorded inside and outside the classroom on a variety of situations and on different activities.

How to make inclusion a Reality?
Inclusive education is a process of strengthening the capacity of the education system to reach out to all learners. We can make this a reality in school by having a positive attitude towards students with disabilities, first. They are all taken in a mainstream classroom regardless of their ability level. This allows them to become effective members in a free society. Teachers require adequate training. Sarvashiksha Abhiyan or Education for All initiative by the Government was not created only for people with disabilities, but because of varied discrepancies in the education sector. We have 23 percent of the population living under the poverty line, complicated social hierarchy and background words like ‘special education’, regular education or even inclusive education should disappear with the only word ‘education’ in practice. If the dream of providing basic education to all children is to ever become a reality then an attitude should be cultivated among all concerned professionals to take inclusive education seriously and treat it as inevitable.

Inclusion without adequate preparation of general schools will not yield satisfactory results. Infrastructure facilities, curriculum modification and educational materials should be addressed.
Regular evaluation should be based on performance indicator. Teacher training courses should address this issue of education of children with disabilities, so that teachers are better equipped to work in an inclusive environment. We require methodology to be adopted for identifying children with disabilities, classroom management, use of appropriate teaching methodologies and skills for adapting the curriculum and evaluation to suit every child in class.

The most touching things that school children have done for you?
There have been several occasions when my school children go out of their way to do things for me and the school; whenever there is any need for community service they are always with the school. We had taken up cleanliness drive to enhance the school premises and the outer environment. The interact club students collected funds by organising friendly football matches with celebrities, and purchased paints and other materials to use for the school enhancement. They even worked on weekends to complete the work.

Best conference attended ?
ACEL Conference in Australia in 2010.