Continuous Learning -
A Non-Negotiable for Every Leader
There are some interactions that delight you. And there are others which fill you with a sense of incredible hope. The one with Naresh Sharma Sir was both. He operates with a lens of continuous learning and acute humility. I had goosebumps hearing him talk about his role, his understanding about children and teaching, and his working style. I hope I am able to relay the same joy and hope through this story for you.
Naresh Sir became a teacher almost 16 years ago. He initially had wanted to become a scientist but did not have any guidance to pursue the career. However, he continued to pursue his interest in Science and studied Physics at college. He had no idea back then that he was laying down the foundation for him becoming the Science District Mentor (DM) in Fazilka, Punjab – a role he has helmed for the past 4 years now.
Naresh Sir had always encouraged students to participate in the regional Science exhibitions, to learn by preparing models and doing experiments and was a recognised name in the region for his efforts. But little did he know that he was going to be leading change in the entire state.
One fine day in August of 2017, Mr. Naresh received a call from the State Department and he was asked to report to Mohali (the head office) the next day. “I never aspired for the role which also didn’t exist before 2017. Someone recommended my name for the founding team of Padho Punjab Padhao Punjab (which is a statewide education change program) – I do not know who”. He adds, smiling, that he is both annoyed with and grateful to this anonymous person. “I got to learn so much.”
A DM’s work involves planning and facilitating learning experiences for teachers, e.g. workshops, training sessions etc., school visits for observations of teaching-learning practices and analysing & making sense of this data for designing district/ state level programs. The role has been a very challenging one for him, but his approach to sense the problems, make sense of the possible solutions, learn continuously and then go about implementing the solutions keeps him going.
Naresh Sir has seen many successes as a result of problem solving approach. Activity based learning in Science is an initiative that he is proud of bringing to the forefront in the state. “In 2017, the school labs across the states were equipped with materials and instruments but they were not utilised at all. During schools visits, our team of DMs realised that most of the teachers did not see any value in using any equipment or conducting experiments as the evaluation criteria for activities was non-existent in the board results. We found that unless activities are not part of the evaluation, there will be no efforts or interest shown by anyone. The team proposed to the department to introduce the new concept of marking that was based on activity based questions and the proposal was accepted.”
As a result, activities became a regular part of the curriculum. “Students participated wholeheartedly, learnt and excelled in the exams and teachers were happy with the outcomes.”
Eric Wade has written- “Nothing worth doing is easy.” This too was not a smooth journey for Naresh Sir. Teachers were not aware of how to work with models and experiments. “I remember, initially, I had to deliver a session on activity based learning to teachers. Never before in my life had I prepared a presentation. The session was a success and teachers appreciated the takeaways they had after the end of the session. They told me, “Sir we have completed our M.Sc, cleared NET but we did not get to learn about the activity you showcased in this session.”