Little Angels Public School was started in Doddamavalli community situated near Lalbagh, Bangalore by Ms Zohra Tabassum’s mother. Her dream was to ensure that underprivileged children in the community could go to school to attain quality education at zero cost or at a minimal fee.

In spite of not having a proper background in the education sector, Ms Zohra took over her mother’s responsibility. Her mother could no longer spend a considerable amount of time in the school owing to health issues. Ms Zohra was supported by her three sisters who helped her set up structures in the school. However, this sibling assistance was restricted to their availability, considering their commitments to their respective families were their top priority. This left Ms Zohra to be the only constant in the school. Moreover, the teachers in the school were also young educated girls from the community or parents.

Challenge faced by the School Leader

The significance of the school was much higher than what it started out to achieve. Over the years, it not only provided education to the children in the community but also served as an employment opportunity for many. Ms Zohra was in search of a support system that would enable her to solve the challenges and strategically develop her school. In pursuit of help, School Leader, Ms Zohra turned to ISLI in 2018.

The School Leader faced several challenges in her school, some of which are as follows:

  • Professional Development of Teachers
  • Quality of Student Learning
  • Issue of Time Management
  • Lack of Knowledge about strategies for Shared Leadership
  • Lack of Knowledge of Behavior Management Strategies
  • Improper Scheduling of School Calendar

Intervention by the ISLI Programme Manager to support the School Leader and Steps taken

With ISLI’s Fellowship Programme intervention, the School Leader’s first action step was to conduct School Self Evaluation (SSE). The result of which was a realisation that though a lot of structures were established, there were loopholes that did not enable for the smooth functioning of the school.  Most of the factors discovered in the process were interlinked and a few creative solutions could help solve several problems at once. As it’s popularly said clearly understanding the problem at hand is problem half solved. In the case of Little Angels School, SSE aided to achieve it.

After conducting SSE and the subsequent identification of areas of development, the School Leader along with the support of Programme Manager, Aswin Jayakumar set out to resolve them one at a time. Using the time management activity from ISLI workshop, the Programme Manager reinforced that school improvement and development is directly related to what a school leader does with one’s own time. He recognised that scheduling and delegation of work would be an ideal approach to start the transformation journey.

In the subsequent school visits, the school leader, Ms Zohra created a personal schedule as well as a monthly school calendar with the Programme Manager’s guidance. Apart from working on time management, the School Leader formed a School Leadership Team (SLT) based on the skill-will matrix. She critically evaluated each teacher and non-teaching staff taking into consideration their abilities as well as their interests. She looked for individuals with an open mindset and strong commitment towards bringing about change in the school. She now had a team of dedicated staff that would meet frequently to actively engage with the challenges and work towards improving the school.

Impact on teachers and students

These two changes sparked off an instant transformation in the school. Initially, the School Leader was finding it difficult to get time to conduct lesson observations or school walkthroughs, which are essential tools for evaluating daily activities. With the schedule set in stone and several responsibilities delegated to SLT members, the School Leader underwent metamorphosis from being stuck in her office all day to a dynamic personality who spent more time in classrooms interacting with her teachers and students.

Since there is less pressure now to do everything by herself, the School Leader had the bandwidth to think of innovative ways to improve her classroom behaviour management and learning outcomes as well.

Ms Zohra already had a print-rich classroom environment. During one of the school walkthroughs, she noticed that the charts and displays were outdated hence the teachers were not making use of it. She dedicated an entire day for students and staff to set up brand new charts and trackers on the walls of the school. She also built a system which ensured that the teachers and students would use the charts consistently and track them for a timely upgrade.

The School Leader understood that in order to improve teacher performance, regular training is a must. This was kept in mind while creating the schedule and a separate time was allotted for teacher training. These sessions were strategically placed right after an ISLI workshop so that knowledge transfer happens immediately and effectively. Exclusive teacher training sessions helped School Leader to strengthen teacher’s professional development, in addition to already implemented strategies: (a) including teachers in SLT and giving them responsibilities which improved teacher leadership and (b) regular lesson observations religiously conducted by SLT members or School Leader

Photo: Clockwise from top right: School Leader conducting Teacher Training Session, School Leader's monthly plans, School Leader leading SLT meeting, Teacher Appreciation Display

One of the biggest advantages of the fellowship is access to the large network of school principals not only within the city but across India. Ms Zohra made use of the network to learn more about school management. She also managed to seek admission to 8th grade in one of the ISLI schools for her brightest 7th grade student (Little Angels School is K-7th grade school). Coincidentally, the student was the son of one of her SLT members which automatically lead to a stronger relationship with her team.

Since the School Leader’s teachers were from the community itself, the word got around and this act endeared her to everyone. The School Leader was able to conduct successful parent-teacher meetings to communicate more about her dream for the school and student achievements.

With the use of School Improvement and Development Plan (SIDP), the School Leader remodelled the school. She utilised the summer vacation to change the structure of the school. The School Board Members were also re-elected which was stagnant for more than two years. The new leadership strategies and the board changed the overall look and feel of the school and made it more appealing to students, teachers, and community.

Photo: New Classroom Displays and Remodeling of School

Over just a year, the School Leader not only exhibited skills of effective time management, planning, implementation, and facilitation but also went beyond the call of duty to secure the future of her brightest student with her networking skills.

Next steps

The School Leader continues to execute her leadership and planning skills as it has worked wonders in the school. She wants to focus on the following for the next academic year:

  • introduce more methods of improving teacher leadership with the help of ISLI and other partner organisations.
  • use ISLI network more effectively for any help and support
  • use School Improvement & Development Plan (SIDP) to drive her goals and vision for the school
  • explore further ways to develop professional development of her not just teachers but also non-teaching staff

- Written by Aswin Jayakumar, ISLI Programme Manager, Bengaluru

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