As Mantra’s partner schools emerged into their second month of the academic year, still reeling in the aftermath of new admissions and setting up structures for the new year, we pulled them away from their schools into the lush green atmosphere of the Wipro Learning Centre.
What did we have planned for them?
We hosted the very first School Leadership Forum (SLF), for the academic year 2019-20. SLF is a space created every quarter, that brings together Mantra’s school leaders, where they engage in various activities and conversations that help them reflect and collaborate towards developing their roles as leaders.
On June 29th, 2019, more than 25 leaders from our Affordable Private Schools program joined us for the SLF, making it the biggest one so far. We had headmasters and headmistresses (HMs), school coordinators, members of school management, and even teachers participate in the forum. The room was filled with an infectious energy that radiated as old friends reunited and new friendships began to form while the leaders interacted.
The forum began with a quick welcome by our Program Manager Anjali Nambiar, who handed the baton to Pranashree Bhushan, our School Transformation Lead (STL) who facilitated the opening session. The day could not begin without a round of introductions as the room was filled with many new faces, and so a beautiful tag was passed around to remember each other’s names followed by a self-introduction which spread a lot of cheer in the room.
This session was particularly special as it was planned by the members of our partner school, Sharada Shree Public School. They prepared all the materials and co-planned the activities, which got the leaders buzzing around the room, enthralled in their competitive spirits.
Introducing the Schools
As the leaders settled down, our STLs Ann and Oviya took over the next session, which was aimed at helping the leaders familiarise themselves to each other’s schools. They were divided into random groups, and each member was given some questions on a sheet, for which they had to find answers.
Our schools were excited as the timer began, spreading across the room, shouting the names of schools and running across to seek their answers, from the other school leaders. The energy in the room soared as the STLs announced that time was up. The leaders were then instructed to go around and paste their answers on charts placed across the walls, which represented each school. This activity helped strengthen the bonds in the room and forge stronger connections among the leaders.
School Leader, Stakeholder, Challenges and the Journey
The next session of the day was a panel discussion moderated by Ms. Veena Sagar, which brought together three of our school leaders from the second year schools and a leader from a ‘graduated’ school.
The discussion provided insights into the school leaders as individuals and their respective journeys while further dwelling into stakeholder relationships, the various challenges they face and how they overcome those challenges and eventually concluding with an exploration of their vision for their schools and young people in our country. Space was also created post the panel discussion for other leaders to address concerns and share their thoughts, which allowed for peer-learning.
A crucial component of modern education is the role of digital content, and to help explore its possibility for leaders and teachers in our partner schools, ShikshaLokam, our sister-concern organization conducted a session introducing the application. The leaders then went on to download the app on their phones and exploring the contents as well.
The post-lunch session was an exciting one, especially for Team Mantra, as we had Mr. S Giridhar, Finance Officer of Azim Premji Foundation, who facilitated a session about the Draft National Education Policy (NEP) 2019. The NEP 2019 is an important policy document that directly impacts schools across the country, including our partner schools.
This session helped explore an overview of the report with a particular focus on the points which would directly impact our STEP and EXCEL schools. The leaders were receptive and responsive during the session, actively interacting with Mr. Giridhar, who was happy to clarify their questions and concerns. He also encouraged the leaders to send in their suggestions and comments to the NEP 2019 Review Committee, who have opened a portal for the same till July 30th, 2019.
Coaching the Coaches
The final session of the day was led by Mr. Praveen Naidu, a beloved face at every SLF, and a member of the Azim Premji Foundation. Mr. Praveen’s session was aimed at understanding and improving ‘Coaching Skills’ among leaders. It started with an exciting activity, which began by splitting the leaders into two groups. The first group was asked to wait outside the room while the second group was given instructions. They were instructed to memorize nine symbols which represented the numbers 0-9 while the first group outside were being blindfolded. Once the time for learning was done, each leader was asked to pick a blindfolded leader and assist them inside, and subsequently, teach them the same symbols while they remained blindfolded.
This part of the activity was especially wonderful to see as each leader developed different strategies to teach their ‘student’ leaders. From holding the pen to trace to describing the symbols through words, each leader tried their best. As the final section of the activity, Mr.Praveen tested the ‘student’ leaders by asking them to write a number given by him using the newly learned symbols. This sparked meaningful learning among both the ‘teacher’ leaders and ‘student’ leaders.
The session continued using the activity as a reference point, helping the leaders understand the experiences of a teacher, especially a new teacher, as well as their role in learning. Furthermore, the emphasis was on the purpose of ‘coaching’ and how it can change teacher performance in schools. The session culminated with some tips on improving motivation within schools.
The academic year’s first SLF ended with a lot of positivity and the building of a strong sense of community among our school leaders who expressed their willingness to participate in such forums in the future. At Mantra, such spaces continue to motivate us in our work, especially when we see our school leaders grow and thrive, taking their respective schools to new heights.
By Team Mantra4Change