Dr Shunila Joy Chauhan is the Principal at Orchids the international school, Mumbai. From the attributes of an exceptional administrator to her inspirations along the way, here, she brings invaluable insights from her praiseworthy career.
Dr Shunila Joy Chauhan is an experienced administrator with a demonstrated history of working in the education management industry. She is skilled in Coaching, Lesson Planning, Educational Technology, Instructional Design, and English. A life long learner, she has been a strong education professional with a Master of Arts (M.A.) focused in Economics and Political Science from Mumbai University.
Following is an excerpt from the interview Wonderpublish conducted with Dr Shunila Joy Chauhan recently:
Q. 1: How do you feel about going back to working from home?
Ans: It’s like Déjà vu. Last year we were unprepared, but this year we have evolved a lot. Although, it’s back to being online, this time we are better prepared with many more things which we can do for our beloved children, and for our teachers and staff.
Q. 2: For how long can schools function like this?
Ans: It’s a very difficult situation for us. It’s not just teaching, there are many other aspects to having a school running. From interaction to the environment, kids learn by observing and in group activities. Though online medium has helped a lot schools are facing a lot of financial crunches because of not raising the fees, and still paying the staff. So yes, it would be difficult going ahead.
Q. 3: How did you get into teaching and what do you think of your career so far?
Ans: I joined official school teaching 18 years ago. But I used to teach before that too, in tutorial classes. At that time, I used to teach French. The love and passion for teaching have always been there.
My French teacher was an incredible lady, long back when I was studying in Tanzania. A patient soul, very kind and firm. I used to watch her and observe the way she taught. In the initial years, I used to do badly in French. But she had the patience and love to hold each child’s hand and give them undivided attention despite the fact that she was facing so many problems in her personal life. This was way back in the 80s when South Africa was under apartheid. My French teacher’s husband was a political prisoner. Though we were in East Africa and her husband was a prisoner in South Africa, she came every day with this beaming smile. And that’s what I learnt from her. The smile on the teacher’s face makes a big difference to the child. She made such a difference that made me want to become a teacher.
Q. 4: Starting as a teacher, later on, you transitioned into administration. How did you respond to the challenges that administrative roles come up with?
Ans: Earlier, it was a bit of trial and error. But we have to learn to cope with failings in order to succeed. I started off very enthusiastically as a teacher. I started with the ICSE board at City International School. Then I went to VIBGYOR teaching Economics of the IG and A levels. That was a wonderful experience interacting with little more grown-up kids. And then developed curriculum as a Subject Matter Expert so that’s when I shifted to administration. There I learned a lot about what to look out for. So when I joined as Principal, I went into complete administration. I joined Thakur International where I learned a lot, then now here I am at Orchids.
Q. 5: What are your core strengths as an administrator?
Ans: First thing I learnt as an administrator was the importance of collaboration. You can not live by yourself. You have to discuss, meet people and be an active listener. In order to become an active listener, you actually have to stop and let the other person speak. You have to actually listen to them, and not just wait for what you are going to tell them.
Also patience and not jumping to conclusions. In an administrative position, you hear so many things. Different people come and tell you different things. So you have to be very careful and not just the book by its cover.
Q. 6: What should teachers do to listen to kids better?
Ans: A teacher needs to listen to a child but if they are too stressed, they wouldn’t. Also, the teachers need to keep their egos aside and not think of themselves as know-it-alls. But this pandemic has taught us that we don’t know everything. In fact, the kids taught us many things. They taught us a lot of IT skills and they were helpful to all the teachers in the class. Our kids were our strength actually.
Q. 7: You recently changed schools. How was the experience of this transition during these COVID times?
Ans: It was a difficult decision to make. And then getting another job in accordance with your skills and your expectations was even more difficult. I went for many interviews. I took each one as an experience. Some I liked, some I didn’t like. After a lot of deliberation with many opportunities for different roles, I chose Orchids because of their Pan India existence. I felt I was in alignment with the vision of the school.
Q. 8: What makes an exceptional Principal different from an average one?
Ans: In order to be exceptional, the Principal needs to be calm. A calm administrator gives the same calmness to everyone around her. Also, when you are empathetic, your entire team trusts you and come to you with the truth. And be approachable. I always believe in the open door policy where you shouldn’t be seen distant.
So that’s what I have always followed. Some of the Principals I have worked with have been exceptional.