Nurturing Happiness in the Daily Routine

Amy Billimoria | Principal, Tarapore School, Jamshedpur

Amy Billimoria has more than 30 years of teaching experience, of which she has worked for the past 14 years as an English teacher, at Tarapore School. Besides teaching, she has also been a KG coordinator, has handled administrative duties and has been the examiner for ICSE corrections. She has led Tarapore School in the TEEP (Tata Steel Excellence in Education) programme for the past 14 years, resulting in a high score for the Dr. J.J. Irani award for Excellence in Education.
Amy Billimoria has been responsible for the formation of PACE (Principals’ Awareness of Creativity in Education), which is an informal association of Principals of 28 schools of Jamshedpur, created with the purpose of sharing practices with others and of establishing a standard syllabus for the lower classes. She is currently the principal of Tarapore School, Jamshedpur.

1. What or who motivated you to get into teaching?

Like many of us, I got into teaching due to personal circumstances. I never imagined myself as a teacher or a Principal, but had more creatively inclined dreams for my future. Teaching became my profession of choice because of the shorter hours of work, suitability with my family and duties at home and other more practical reasons.
However, once I entered the profession, I felt that this was where I was always meant to be and all my creativity and the need to do things differently, has been channelled into this profession.
2. What is the most challenging part of being a principal?
Being creatively inclined, the need for standardisation, rules and regulations, organising people and situations, has always been a challenge for me, as I would prefer the teaching profession to be more flexible and easy going, which would truly allow teachers to explore their creativity. However, we have norms and binding factors like sheer numbers in the classroom, the curriculum, the ‘syllabus’, which we do have to follow if we are to exist in the real world.
3. What has so far been your most rewarding experience?
After 30 years, when you bump into an ex-student, who exclaims with delight, “Good morning, teacher! Do you remember me? I was in your class in LKg. B!” and then goes on to describe you as her most favourite teacher to her husband and children, you do feel that the years have caught up with you; but there is no better reward that this experience, which I have very often, having taught in an established school for several years as a Kg. Teacher, in the olden days.
That is when you, being their first teacher, make such an impression on the students that your memory never fades away. No amount of monetary benefit or award can substitute this verbal stamp of approval from your ex-student!
4. What are some of the key aspects that institutions can work on, to nurture ‘happiness’ among student?
I believe that a school should be a happy place for students, who should wake up each morning with a burning desire to go to school, even despite a burning fever. Idealistic though it may sound, I feel we have been able to create this atmosphere at Tarapore School for a majority of students, if not all of them. A relaxed atmosphere, music  playing when the students arrive at school, an activity period devoted to play and games early every morning, and an acceptance of higher noise levels are some of the ways in which our school has tried to nurture happiness in the daily routine.
5. How important is value education in schools today?
Value education is the most important aspect of educating students nowadays. The new guru is Google, and students can access most information and knowledge without the help or support of a teacher. However, values cannot be taught without example, and this is where the teacher’s role will become more important, in the years to come, in view of the conflicting messages that students are faced with through the highly influential social media of our times.
6. How important, according to you, is a parent-school-teacher relation in the child’s development?
We face the conflict of this eternal triangle of parent-school-teacher on a daily basis. It is very important that the opinions of all of the three well-wishers of a child are in alignment. Nobody ever wants to do anything which is detrimental to a child’s development; it is just the manner in which it is approached that differs from person to person. So, a school needs to do everything possible to ensure that its teachers and parents are aware of the thought processes of its leaders, even before a student or a teacher actually joins the school.
7. How important are extra-curricular activities for the all-round development of children?
Who is known for his or her marks, long after the school days are over? No one questions you about your achievement in a particular subject, once you join the daily routine of adult life.  A marksheet is only a stepping stone to cross in order to reach new heights.
In the words of Tennyson, “All experience is an arch wherethrough gleams the untravelled world, whose margin fades for ever and for ever when I move.” Therefore, it is the extra-curricular activities which remain with us and which provide us with memories and chances to explore our talent, and I believe, these activities are extremely important for the all-round development of children.
8. In a city like Jamshedpur, what are some of the challenges that schools and teachers face?
Students of Jamshedpur find the need to prove themselves after Std. XII, when they compete with other students in different cities. The lack of higher education opportunities of a good standard in Jamshedpur leads them to seek admission in colleges in larger cities, where the main challenge is that they do not fall under the domestic quota of that state, and therefore, their marks need to be highly competitive if they wish to qualify from some of the premier institutions of the country.
However, I must add that this competitive spirit, this drive to excel is what has resulted in so many Jamshedpurians doing exceedingly well after school, which again is testimony to the excellent educational opportunities offered by schools in Jamshedpur.
9. What are some of the important skills that a 21st century teacher needs?
Empathy for the 21st century student is topmost on the list of skills for teachers, for we cannot escape the fact that we were brought up and educated in the 20th century and our expectations of a student are based on our preconceived notions of what students should and should not be like. Whereas, 21st-century students have grown up in a very different technological world and need to be understood in the context of what they have grown up to accept as their natural world. This gap is what must be focused upon, if we are to get across to students in this day and age
10. A word for the teaching community…
In the words of Shakespeare, “All things that are, are with more spirit chased than enjoyed”.so keep trying to achieve your dreams. It is in the strife, and in the day to day struggle to get across to our students, that we find a purpose and a reason for being called a teacher.
This article was originally published in magazine in the month of February, 2019.