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When a student turns up at my office room, everything else can wait.

Mona Mehdi of Orchids International School is a students’ principal. Her entire work is about catering to them in the best possible way. She speaks about contemporary pupils and how they think among other things.

Tell us about your career graph.

I have been in education for 19 years now including my stints as a teacher and principal. Basically, I spent many years in Lucknow before coming down South to Hyderabad.

What difference do you find in the internal culture of schools up North and in Hyderabad?

Schools in Hyderabad are much more technology-savvy. Teachers adapt to newer teaching methods more easily and better. When I just moved to Hyderabad, I felt obsolete. But now, all of us, the senior teachers and me, have adapted to suit the needs of students. Today, education is no more teacher-centric, it’s learner-centric.

How do you see digitally-aided teaching methods?

We enabled smart-boards in the entire school in 2011. It has pros and cons. Advantages are that students actually get to see a palpitating heart and visualize exactly how a volcano erupts. These concepts become easy to teach on a digital medium.

The disadvantage is that the independent imagination of students doesn’t work as much when it has to. For example, a film-maker imagined and created the story of Cinderella on screen. The rest just watch it – it is all just one person’s imagination they get to enjoy. So, I think videos and animation on digital medium can’t and shouldn’t replace books. I wish children read more these days. However, from a purely academic standpoint, I think digital medium in classrooms works.

What do you think of the way CCE is being implemented?

Four years back, when it was introduced all of us (teachers and administrators) had a tough time customizing the CCE content to suit the school. Maintaining and calculating test results were also tedious. Today, new software helps us customize and evaluate with ease. Inspite of this, I see that admin departments are not completely ready to adapt to the changes – there is resistance.

Speaking of the CCE system itself, I think it’s a good thing that it has picked up positives from the western system like encouraging student to be being risk-takers and independent.

Tell us something about your management style.

(Smiles) I am a student’s principal. If a student is at the doorstep of my office then everything and everybody else can wait. I address his/her concerns first. When we speak about encouraging students to take risks then we have to entertain it when a Class III or Class IV student gathers boldness to walk into my office. When I was in school I never approached my principal before I got to  Class X.

Parents can mail me anytime of the day. I make sure I reply them by 10 am the next day if I can’t reply on the day they mail. I am also always in touch with the school’s Facebook page. Recently, when I spoke about cyber bullying in a forum other principals were surprised that I manage to get into such nitty-gritties. Of course, I have an IT person who uploads pictures but I don’t sit back thinking all is taken care of. We had our annual show on Feb 1 and later, when we put up pictures of event on our wall, students passed cheeky comments on each other. I had to hide them and tell them that there are etiquettes in the cyber world too.

What is your advice to new principals?

Interact a lot. Be accessible. And have a vision for your school.

How can we encourage sporting talent?

I think we need the infrastructure and if we don’t have it then we can always have tie-ups from outside. We have a tie-up for the school swimming pool and offer cricket coaching. Many schools either complain that they don’t have space or infrastructure but they can always have tie-ups.

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