What it takes to make a good school

Atul Bhandari

It takes a lot from every person involved to help a school function to the best of its ability. There are too many things that can go wrong, maybe overlooked or ignored leading to a school’s downfall. It is necessary that school leaders are aware of what these problems are and how they can solve them.

I share in this article a few issues that schools may encounter, issues we must get rid of if we are serious about giving the best to our children.

Common mistakes by principals/headmistresses/headmasters 

1.   The know it all attitude: Many principals very erroneously think that they know it all. They think they do not need advice.

Solution – Principals should always be receptive to advice from the management and senior teachers.

2.   Hiring low quality staff to save money: This is an example of being short-sighted. It is like switching off the clock to save time! Low quality staff will mess things up, which will result in a drop in admissions, leading to a drop in revenue.

Solution – Hire the best teachers and staff that the school can afford. It will have a direct bearing on the overall standard of the children and the school.

3.  Excessive interference in dayto-day matters: There are principals who want to be aware of even the most minute and irrelevant issues.

Solution – Top management and principals must focus only on the top 20 per cent of the issues for growth and smooth running of the school. They must graduate from focusing on the bottom 20 per cent of the issues.

4.  Not de-hiring incompetent staff: The process of selection must be very strict. Some schools take more interest in hiring their gardners, than monitoring the performance of an incompetent principal and teachers or weak administration staff. They exhibit a mysterious inability to de-hire the weak and incompetent. That does not augur well for the school, in both the short term and long term. The school will remain mediocre, if the incompetent continue to serve in the school.

Solution – Weak principals, notorious teachers and incompetent administration staff must be de-hired on priority. A school is a temple of learning. The inefficient must be weeded out; the earlier the better.

5.  Lopsided sense of salary: Some people give more salary to an ordinary, junior employee than to qualified teachers!

Solution – Have a good HR person who gives sensible advice. Teachers must be well paid and a school must attract the best feasible talent.

6.    Giving standardized increments: Very few things are as illogical as giving a standard increment to the teachers on the mistaken belief that this is fair. Actually, it is very unfair. A teacher who has been very committed and hard working is given the same increment as a teacher who has been lazy and uncommitted. How is that fair?

Solution – Give better increments to the top performers. Do not have a ‘One size fits all’ policy.

7.    Having a tunnel vision: Some principal’s have a tunnel vision, i.e,, they lack the 360° perspective. For example, they may be focused only on academics, rather than being concerned about the overall development of the child.

Solution – Principals need to be more interested in what the child of today will shape up to be tomorrow. That is more important than focusing only on the grade 12 board exam results, so that he himself looks good in the eyes of the management.

8.    Being too distant from the teachers: Some principals believe that they have to keep a distance from the teachers. Yes, some distance is necessary, but it must not be to the extent that the principal loses contact with the teachers.

Solution – Strike a balance. The principal must be close, but not too close. He must be distant, but not too distant.

Common mistakes by parents

9.    Thinking that good marks are a passport to being successful in life: Actually there is very little correlation. There are many students who are toppers, very good academically, but are not successful in life. Many so called ‘bright’ people are poor architects of their own lives.

Solution – Principals need to frequently communicate with parents face-to-face, through emails, newsletters and so on and make them realize that all-round development is more important than grades. The sad part is that many principals themselves believe the opposite.

10.   Thinking that if they have put their child in a good school, their job as a parent is done: The time that children spend in school is just a small portion of the the child’s life. Parents have a huge and immensely significant role to play in teaching good values to their children. They erroneously think that the teacher is the sole person responsible for teaching everything to their child, from advanced mathematics to table manners.

Solution – Parents need to realize that they have to bring up their children, not merely finance them! There is much more to parenting than paying the school fees.

11.   Robbing children of their childhood: Many parents rob their children of their childhood by insisting that the child be involved all day with School/homework/piano classes/cricket/online classes/tennis/numerous other activities.

Solution – Parents must realize that their children are as human as they are. They cannot be good at everything. They too need time and space to breathe.

Common mistakes by teachers

12.   Not setting a good example: Many teachers think that their job is only to teach. We need to realize that the child is watching the teacher’s every move, every action. Hence, the teacher has to be a very good role model in the way she dresses, behaves, speaks, etc.

Solution – The teacher must set a good example in everything.

13.   Being lesson centric, rather than child centric: Some teachers forget that they have to build a positive relationship with every child, it is not just about teaching chemistry and walking out of the class.

Solution – Teachers must connect with each child in the classroom. There must be a positive bond based on trust and respect.

14.  Having favourites: If teachers have favourites, it undermines the other children.

Solution – Teachers must treat every child in a fair manner, with care and understanding.

Common problems of the management that teachers are unaware of

15.  Paying for numerous invisible expenses: The management has to pay for loans, insurance, salaries, basic maintenance of the campus, which the staff take for granted.

Solution – Be grateful for whatever the management is giving.

16.   Handling government rules and regulations: The management has to be on the right side of the law, the state government, the police, the media, parents, public opinion, etc. It is not an easy task.

Solution – Teachers need to appreciate the hardships that the management has to face.

17.   Risks: If some untoward incident happens in the school, it could land the owners/management in jail. Such things are far from the thoughts of teachers. If a devastating fire breaks out, or a road accident occurs, the entire brunt is borne by the management.  

Solution – Teachers must thank God that they do not have to bear the brunt of a multitude of issues. Remember, uneasy is the head that wears the crown.

Most of us know the solutions to the mistakes mentioned above, but very few of us act on them. Everyone wants change, but very few are willing to change themselves. Only a teacher/parent/principal who can place the school above self, will make these positive changes.

The author is principal, Kimberly Boarding School, Panchkula. He can be reached at principal@kimberley.co.in

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