Amrita Burman


Sunbeam Group of Educational Institutions, Varanasi
Birthday : 1st November
Hometown : Varanasi
School/College where studied : Modern High School, Kolkata; Loreto College, Kolkata

The best thing about being a Teacher

Being in the company of inquisitive, creative children who keep you on your toes and keep making you feel there is so much you don’t know and therefore push you to learn. There is happiness always in the company of children and the challenge they pose is startling.

How did you feel on the first day being a School Principal/Leader

Overwhelmed with the task on hand and the responsibility of handling every part of the organisation. I also felt ‘God! there’s so much I need to learn to handle, so many things at a time!’ I felt that there are many people looking at me for solutions therefore I need to keep understanding and learning to give solutions. On the first day I felt responsible but utterly challenged due to inexperience.

The best thing about being a Teacher-Leader

There is a new challenge every day. Every day you feel that you have to be a learner. I think being a teacher-leader these days is enjoyable as the challenges are posed by a very smart lot of informed children due to technology. This technology also gives ample opportunities to the leaders to connect or read and learn how to handle challenging situations. Experimentation and a ‘new way’ of doing things are acceptable these days which is a boost to try new methods. The respect children of today give you if you have been a true mentor is amazing.

What are the traits of an effective Principal?

A principal should have the ability to build a team of teachers who are not clones of yours, but a heterogeneous team, who are people who speak out without fear of being shunned due to expressing a contrarian view. The Principal has to walk the talk. Therefore, she should be hardworking, honest, an academician, a learner, a mentor, a person with empathy, a great listener, a great teacher, great manager … someone who has a lot of qualities all rolled into one.

Please describe the role you feel parents should play in the operation of the school.

I consider the parents to be the biggest stakeholders in this ‘business’ of education and therefore must be very closely informed about what is going on in school in general and in particular about their child. There has to be constant meeting with the parents; taking what they say very seriously and to work on the feedback they give is very important. In fact, my experience is that the maximum improvement has happened in my school systems due to the positive feedback of the parents. I involve parents in a Parents’ Forum where every year we do serious discussion and feedback is taken on school systems. We also have a Parents’ involvement format where each parent tells us at the beginning of the year what they want to do in the school, for example do they want to teach a class, do storytelling, become a ‘bus mitr’ or help during sports or an annual Parents’ day … the more they get involved the more they are empathetic towards the teacher and the relationship of the school and the parents improves helping the school to grow in the right direction.

When you visit a classroom, what are the first things you look for as signs that the classroom is an effective learning place?

Good observation of the class room speaks volumes of the way a leader works because in a school it is what transpires in a class that is most important. When I visit a class I sit at the back quietly and observe how the teacher has begun a lesson to catch the interest of the children, how much of recapitulation happens of the previous day’s work to connect and a give a continuity to the lesson; the interaction with the students to see if there are opportunities given to students to question and whether the levels of teaching learning are pushed through the right kind of questions; how much of wait time is given to students after a question is thrown to them for them to think and answer or is there impatience to give the answer themselves. I observe to see if it is a student led class or a teacher led class; is there volunteer teaching by students; is there collaboration in learning and is technology being used? Everything may not happen in all classes at the same time but seeing the use of teaching learning material and patterns and methods of teaching, a lot can be said about the teaching environment of the class. If children do get their ‘Aha moments’ of learning with joy there is vibrancy in the environment and that is the hallmark of a good school.

What is your vision of Special Education?

There should be a separate unit in a school for Special Education. Here, special emphasis should be laid on the way of teaching and effort should be made to integrate the special students into the mainstream. Students of the mainstream school must volunteer in the special education section to understand how it works and to learn to respect differences.

What is your view on QCT (Quality Circle Time)?

I feel it is a very sacred time wherein a trained teacher who knows how to handle emotionally high strung moments of the children, conducts it and handles the children’s problems but does not let any of those talks go beyond that room so that there is respect for the personal space of the child. There has to be a safe and a sensitive school for the children both physically and emotionally.

How can you make ‘Inclusion’ a reality?

This is possible by seriously working towards it, practicing it as a leader, sensitising everyone about it and about the pitfalls of non inclusion and by spreading empathy in the campus. When an environment for inclusion is created and there is zero tolerance for non inclusion, inclusion will become a part of the culture of the school.

What is your view on the e-learning platform?

Changing with the times is important. e-learning platforms are an example of that and should be used. There should be a good blend of human intervention and e-learning.

The most touching thing that school children have done for you?

Simply remembered me years after passing out and came to me telling me about their moments with me that touched and changed their lives … that have been most rewarding.

Best conference/seminar that you have attended on education.

Creativity Conference in South Africa.

What are the major qualities you seek in a new teacher?

If the Attitude is right, the rest is taken care of. In fact, I always tell my HR department – look for a B Grade teacher with an A grade attitude. I am ok with it but never the reverse, it won’t work!

Your favorite Book : My Gita by Devdutt Patnaik

Your favorite Movie : Three Idiots