Being An Endless Source of Guidance and Care

A Glimpse into a Day in School Leader’s Life

I am not satisfied with where we are now, a lot of work still needs to be done, and [there is] a long way to go. I deem it necessary to question the status quo and strive for improvement and address questions like what resources do we have? What speed should we progress at? What type of infrastructure is required? and so on.

Ankit Agrawal is a second year School Leader at iTeach Samrat Ashok Vidya Mandir (SAV).  The school is also in its second year – a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model school run by iTeach Schools in partnership with the Pune Municipal Corporation. 

The Karvenagar community in Pune, where the school is located, did not have a government English medium school beyond Grade 4 to provide quality education to its students until SAV commenced operations. The school team comprises 10 members – 7 Teachers, an Admin Associate, a Social Worker and Ankit. They together serve 160 students in Grades 5 and 6. The students belong to families with parents mostly working as daily wage earners and factory workers, with the family income between Rs. 5000-10000 per month. 

When the school started in 2021, the community was severely hit by the pandemic. Several students at SAV were earlier studying in private schools earlier but could not continue to afford the fees. One fifth of the student families were without any source of income. 50% of the students had travelled back to their villages. When the admissions were finally over and learning began, the team found out, expectedly, that with a lack of continued learning opportunities [due to the lockdown], about 60% of students were 5 to 6 years behind their grade levels. Also, the school building was also not completely constructed – the government funding had to be diverted to COVID-19 relief – with only a single hall available to conduct classes. 

Today, almost a year later, a few of these challenges have been resolved, while others remain. The classrooms are in place, visiting the community is safer than what it was one or two years ago. It is easier to get access to parents but to convince some of them to invest in their child’s education is still a challenge. The Grade 5 batch has also come in with major learning gaps. 

This photo essay is a glimpse into how Ankit, along with his team, addresses these challenges everyday.

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Just like how we use google maps to reach our destination, we have to pace up our technical knowledge and use it to navigate the path to achieve the target

Ankit is the first to step into the school. Some students wander in early and eagerly wait for him to unlock the classrooms. The school is located on the first floor, in a sprawling campus which houses five different government schools. 

The day begins with a quick team huddle where the team calls out their classroom highlights, showers appreciation for each other’s work. They also seek support for tips and techniques to enhance learning practices or simply to request others to observe their classrooms or mark a few worksheets.

Soon all students gather in the Assembly Hall. But the usual prayers are not part of the morning routine at SAV. The time is used to develop and reinforce a sense of identity of being a student at SAV and the purpose – continuous learning to realise their potential. The students get to share about the progress they have made in their academics, extracurriculars and their plans towards the next thing in their schedules, be it the unit tests or a sports day or an end of unit showcase.

The assembly concludes with students making their way to classrooms with Ankit high-fiving each student, setting the tone for their day and additionally calling out specific praise or instructions for different students.

As the learning commences in the classroom, the small staff room is abreast with activity. The room is small, if not miniscule. Availability of space is always a challenge in PPP and Affordable Private Schools – classrooms are a priority and the staff has to make do with what is available. Here, Ankit spends time with Rameshwar, the Admin Associate, to run through the school management tracker and how the gaps need to be filled.

Suchetha, the Math teacher, prepares student material for her class on the same table.

A key aspect of Ankit’s work is coaching his team and facilitating improvements in their work – which has become second nature to him. Before becoming the School Leader, he was the Training and Development Manager for two years where he led learning for 120 teachers in the organisation. He has also been a Lead Teacher in another iTeach school for two years and coached three teachers in student learning design, execution strategies and continuous reflection towards improvements.

As a School Leader, he observes the classes as per the teacher needs, helps them make sense of the student data and draw pathways to enhance student outcomes. He also keeps a tab on the staff morale, constantly checking on their stressors and celebrating their big and small wins, both in and outside school.

Through the day, students work towards subject specific goals and access differentiated support from their teachers.

Ankit loves children. Since joining the Teach For India fellowship, he had harbored a dream of leading a school where he gets to lay the vision for his school and lead a high performing team and school culture towards holistic learning for every single child. He is happy that he is getting to do it now everyday. 

He cherishes the break time where he is spending informal time with the children, orchestrating moments of joy and also at the same time channelising their immense energy. He also does this so as to model it for his team so that they can also build connections with their students beyond classrooms.

One of the rooms in the school is designated as an activity room where students play carrom and dance to music during the break. The team plans to introduce more board and card games to school soon.

Ankit speaks with Ankita (the English teacher) after a class for a quick check on the progress of students and reiterating expectations around learning culture. 

Through the day that I spent at the school, joyful learning, serenity and support for each other [both among students and teachers and for each other] was very palpable. Not a raised voice was heard. Every student acknowledged and followed the instructions from their teachers or the School Leader. Raised hands in all classrooms reflected student’s preparation for the end of unit exams and their teachers’ efforts.

Ankit keeps an essential check on the staff culture – in turn a key driver for classroom and student culture. At the beginning of the year, the team co-creates the staff vision defining the values and illustrating the actions against each. Progress and checks are made at morning and evening huddles, monthly all staff meetings and bi-annual 1-1 feedback sessions. The team looks forward to spending time together informally, as often as they can. 

In weekly 1-1 conversations, Ankit makes it a point that he reinforces that staff culture is not just his responsibility, but a collective effort. He asks the members of their contribution and encourages them to hold each other accountable.

The second year at SAV has recently begun. The focus for the year is co-ownership of goals by all stakeholders. Grade 6 students now manage transitions through the day, ensuring cleanliness with Grade 5 students. Students own spaces with student leaders when teachers are not present. The objective is to shift from teacher dependency in year 1 to student and community leadership in year 2. In addition to academics, extracurricular activities will become part of the weekly timetable with every student accessing 2-3 opportunities (art, music, dance, football, etc.) through the year.  

Challenges abound – shifting parental mindset around the importance of education, making children quickly feel safe and confident about achievement in school, bridging the student gaps – communication, socio-emotional and academic alike. Amongst this, Ankit strives to be at his best behaviour always and keeps his team motivated.

Luv Kumar

Luv Kumar

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