When we think of a principal, we have often been conditioned to think of a grumpy man, sitting in his office frowning at papers and everybody around him in general. However, when we sat with Mr. Kumar Thapa, principal at Brihaspati Vidyasadan, we learned that perhaps there is more to unravel to this role.
“Back in my day, the basics of abcd weren’t even taught till grade four,” he humbly confesses, “I don’t have any fancy schooling to boast of but I still remember the days I spent in my college cafeteria.” He chuckles at how much he preferred hanging around the canteen and finding the conversations with his friends much more stimulating than the classrooms.
“Even back in the day”, he exclaims, “to top an exam all you needed was simply a guidebook, photocopied notes and knowing the score distribution.” He remembers feeling like most teachers would just read their notes out loud and he was only losing valuable time in class. “There were even times I had protested the way these classes were being conducted,” he shares, ”I told them ‘You are not just disrespecting the subject but you yourself as a teacher’. But as a student I wasn’t taken very seriously and couldn’t change the system.”
Fed up with the experiences he had in his own formal education, he began reflecting and shaping the foundations of what would go on to be his future perspective. He attended many conferences and scoured the internet. “One of the biggest flaws in the field of teaching is that teachers often forget that they too, were students themselves,” Mr. Kumar states. To avoid this pitfall, as the associate director for MBA at Ace Institute of Management, he mentions how he always made attempts to empathize with his students and learn what problems they were facing.
The question that seemed to be nagging his mind was simply, “Why, as educators, do we still repeat the same, dated teaching ideologies when the world around us has changed so much?”
“This was further solidified when I happened to watch a ted talk called ‘Do schools kill creativity?’,“ he stresses, “The conclusion I was led to was that if change is to be brought, it needs to start at the root. With this decision I left my position at Ace to become a principal at John Dewey Higher Secondary School.”
I have always believed that if as a principal, I can create a clear vision then the rest of the school will align behind me in a way that change can begin.
“See, that school was already functioning on the premise that exam-based education was not the only way of teaching. And they were giving equal importance to subjects like music or arts,” Mr Thapa explained, “This was the perfect grounds for me to experiment and learn what changes could truly benefit these students. I have always believed that if as a principal, I can create a clear vision then the rest of the school will align behind me in a way that change can begin.”
Bringing all his thoughts, learnings and experiments to his current role at BVS, he is a strong believer that a principal can act as an agent of change. To do so, he has created such a framework that relies on open communication. Whether it is conducting surveys in classrooms for their students or hosting regular meetings with his staff, he believes that only through a proper assessment of the current situations, we can learn what needs improving.
Rather than a grumpy man in his office, what we saw was an individual full of life, walking around his school without causing a hint of fear in his students. When a student becomes the master, maybe then you truly begin to understand that learning is beyond books and classrooms and teaching begins with mutual respect.