Thought leadership

Rethinking Teacher Training During & Post COVID Outbreak

Col A Sekhar
Rethinking Teacher Training During & Post COVID Outbreak

“I do not have money to pay my teachers’ salaries, forget about their training them during the pandemic. Let the school be off the ventilator!”

“With WFH, Zoom/Team Classes, salaries have not been given in the last two months. Colonel Sekhar, you have to be mad to talk about teacher training and development.”

“Right now, the assessments of the written tests held seem unreliable. MCQs have limited scope and this is new for the teachers. It is now that we must think about training our teachers. There is enormous confusion among them. I am worried about my daughters.”

The above quotes from a school promoter, a teacher, and a parent respectively, succinctly sum up the K-12 educational realities amidst the COVID-outbreak. The academic communities, especially the teachers, have been magnificent so far, despite severe duress. Leave aside the top 5% schools (creamy layer, anyone!), the overwhelming feedback is of a scholastic system facing up to distress, online fatigue and mental health issues; with little help forthcoming.

Our politicians, struggling with COVID, contracting economies, tensions along the Indo-China borders, etc., have their default mindset clear - win popular sentiment at any cost to divert attention and thus survive. Blissfully unencumbered with thoughts about the long term future of India, (mentally taxing for sure), our leaders have (ostrich-like) played along with the popular sentiment and encouraged parents and students to refuse to pay legitimate fees for schools and colleges. This short term gambit will, without a shadow of a doubt, have disastrous consequences at all levels, leading to trust deficits, a decline in professional training and development, and subsequently learning outcomes. The immediate future, especially for private institutions, is going to be tough and painful. Only the most resolute will survive.

Yet, make no mistake, for I have consistently believed, and continue to believe (with reasonable evidence) that the fixed mindsets of teachers are among the most difficult to change. This black swan event has given us a wonderful opportunity to force much delayed and vital changes in the scholastic system. NEP 2020 could just be the timely engine to execute, with mature national consensus, the transformative changes leading to India becoming an intellectual superpower, both in letter and spirit.

“All that you touch you change. All that you change changes you. The only lasting truth is change.” - Octavia E Butler                                                               

So, how do we chart a reimagined training and development model, which caters for:

  • The present continuous COVID phase (12 to 18 months)                                                                                                                   
  • The post-COVID phase, where blended learning will be front and centre.
  • Increased focus on socio-emotional learning.
  • Long term, to be truly student-centred and student-led.
  • Transformation of the teacher into an informed learning curator.
  • Double value for limited money.

It is my felt belief, distilled from over 3 decades in this field that 100 hours of PD, per year, is non-negotiable for every teacher for optimum results. How do we get there, with an additional 30% required to cater to the NEP and the vastly changing education landscape? The following points, born out of the grassroots experience identify a way forward:

  • Formulate a clear training and development matrix, integrating personal, professional and organizational requirements seamlessly.
  • Delink training and development from performance appraisals.
  • Reach out to other schools (within and outside own localities) and share resources.
  • Identify courses/programmes available online (free and paid), encourage teachers to qualify.
  • Form a consortium of Principals/Vice Principals as trainers in your zone, optimize them.
  • Identify quality trainers, strike a win-win deal and engage them over the whole year.
  • Every teacher to conduct a workshop as a leader and be part of two more as assistant leaders.
  • Identify parents and resource persons, harvest their potential.
  • Strike long-term bargain deals with quality teacher training organizations with specific outcomes mandated.
  • Go beyond headlined leaders; fantastic lessons can be learnt from unsung heroes; engage with them.
  • Focus on SEL, blended learning, NEP, evaluation and assessments.
  • PD and training time is sacrosanct, school leaders to own responsibility.
  • Be patient, results, long-lasting will be visible in about 2 years.

It will be most presumptuous of me to say that this is going to be easy. No, it is difficult but also possible. Instructional leadership is key. Once you are able to navigate the usual naysayers and passive resistors, the energy created will be long-lasting, capacity building will boost competence, leading to better learning outcomes and the creation of a world-class learning organization.

“Change is the one certainty of life, and pain is the agent of change, it forces you to wake up and see the world differently, and the discomfort of it forces you to see the reality of it. It’s through the pain that we learn, personally and also universally.” Julia Samuel, Psychotherapist

Author: Col A Sekhar, Educational Consultant

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