Kavita Mathur is the Vice President of Academics at Velammal Knowledge Park. A teacher for over thirty years, she has a lot to share on how leaders in the academic field can help the education system overcome crises such as the current pandemic.

Crisis or no crisis, the academic leaders must work on creating a healthy culture based on a good value system in their schools. Strong systems find it easiest to overcome these situations. According to Mrs. Kavita, at any crisis, the leadership must be empathetic.

The three A’s can be kept in mind:

Anticipate - Watch out for potential disasters and emergencies.

Analyse – Analyse the situation with reference to one’s own strengths, the team and the students affected.

Action Plan - Create action plans well in advance. Be prepared to handle the worst situations.

Mrs. Kavita also strongly recommends in building good communication systems within schools. Communication between the three important stakeholders – students, teachers and parents must be strong. Schools can also consider loosening the hierarchies and making all teachers and heads open to communication with others and parents.

Teachers are role models to students. However, the society, including families and schools, must respect teachers. Schools also must not micromanage teachers. They must trust their talent and help empower them further.

Teachers are going through a very tough time now. They have been forced to suddenly shift to unfamiliar territory - using virtual platforms to teach while facing a computer rather than a class of students. Also, 70 percent of teachers are women for whom work load at home has only increased since pandemic. The most difficult part, though, is holding students’ attention over the online class. Face to face interactions can never be replaced but we must make best use of the situation and move forward. Afterall, change is the only constant. Mrs. Kavita suggests solutions like sharing presentations beforehand and asking questions regarding it during class, and sharing notes with blanks that students must fill during class. This way, the onus of learning is shifted from teachers to the students.

For the coming future, schools must be prepared to start a blended (online + offline) mode of education. Schools may have to open in a staggered manner, with senior secondary students attending physical classes first. Also, a Covid Crisis Management Committee must be created within each school. This committee should be prepared to handle situations where teachers or students get ill.

How to become role models to students

The Indian society’s approach to education is very means oriented. The nobility associated with teachers is lost now partly because of the quality of their teaching and partly because of the lack of respect society gives them. Mrs. Kavita Mathur explains how teachers and families can help improve the teacher-student relationship by inculcating the right values among students.

Qualities of an Academic Leader

During any crisis, the leadership needs to be empathetic to the stakeholders of the institution. Three A’s - Anticipation, Analysis, Action Plan - have to be kept in mind. Mrs. Kavita Mathur also says that any action made should prioritise the student and their learning outcomes.

Adapting to online Education

Teachers are having a tough time adapting to online education. Large scale training sessions of teachers in the new technology have to be done. Mrs. Kavita Mathur suggests how the new medium has to be used to apply pedagogy differently. She also suggests methods to check the attentiveness of students over online meetings.

Leadership in times of Crisis

Communication is key in the handling of any crisis. A clear action plan has to be prepared in advance to be able to respond rightly in time. Schools should not micromanage teachers. If good communication systems are put in place, the institution will be easily able to overcome any crisis situation.