Teaching: The Most Gratifying Vocation

Puneeta Chouhan has been a teacher, HOD and Principal in her 35 years as an educator. She has donned many hats and taken up many responsibilities including the role of a convener of CISCE schools in Jamshedpur and Inspector of Schools by CISCE. She has worked with several UK schools under the UKIERI & GSP Programs of British Council, partnered with a Chinese school for cultural exchange and has led a student delegation to UN to participate in an MUN session at New York.
She is passionate about education, is a dramatics and theatre enthusiast, enjoys reading, and likes to dabble in composing poetry.

1. Your school has won many awards and accolades. What helped your school achieve this, and do you believe recognition such as these has brought about some positive changes in the school?
We worked with the British Council for several years under the UKIERI & GSP programmes. This created a climate for internationalism, exchange of students’ ideas and work. For the International School Award, our school had partnered with several schools across the globe on agreed themes to exchange student opinion and learning, through video conferencing, e-mails, resources, etc. It was a delightful forum for the exchange of ideas and cultural understanding.
The children befriended students from different countries, and increased their learning multifold!
2. In a city like Jamshedpur, what are the challenges that educational institutes face? Do you think the location of the institute matters?
Jamshedpur is a recognised hub of quality education at the school level. Schools here are both competitive and collaborative. Our multi-pronged challenges surface from the existing crosscurrents in the educational world. For a student today, promotion is a right, irrespective of merit and discipline is no longer a mandate. To be able to preserve the sanctity of excellence in education amidst this new environment, wherein stakeholders are happy to drift forward without craving to accomplish milestones, is a concern for educators. The cultural fad evident in the form of social media addiction among teenagers threatens to adversely influence the desire for academic as well as extracurricular performances. As far as these challenges are concerned, they impact us all, irrespective of location.
On the other hand, the support of the TATA group of companies in Jamshedpur, and their readiness to cooperate with schools in various ventures, including technical and legal expertise as and when required, are a huge advantage. 
3. In a world where students of class 9 start studying for class 10 exams, do you think spending time on student engagement activities and exchange programmes help children in achieving success?
We aspire for all round development. The academic thrust needs to be backed up with positive social attitudes, competencies in multiple areas of expertise and expression, the fine arts, kinesthetic skills like sport and dancing, etc. to offer a gamut of opportunities to a student who is learning to explore untouched horizons, to discover himself.
Exchange programmes help students gain new perspectives, sensitize them towards new avenues of thought, increase their tolerance and broaden their outlook towards life.
Our British collaborations helped our teachers and students to appreciate their level of creative expression, while our interaction with the Chinese schools provided us insights into a new measure of perseverance.
The dimensions of learning are indeed endless, and the more we learn, the more we realise that we have only scratched the tip of the iceberg.
4. Your school was a part of the MUN team that went to the US, in 2017. Kindly share the experience with us. How do such events help in the development of the child?
Hill Top School students bagged the Best Delegation Award during the Indian International Model United Nations (IIMUN) Jamshedpur last year. This triggered the US trip to attend the IIMUN USA at the UN itself.  Competition at a global level on a foreign soil helps students to gauge and assess themselves objectively. The trip added layers of confidence to the children, who proved their mettle and awakened to the wonderful realization of self-worth, after having made a mark on such a platform. More than anything, the children were intrigued by the idea of participating in an MUN session at the UN, which exercises its own charisma.
5. As a school which has followed unique methods for overall development of a child, could you tell us about the activities that you have in school that help in the same?
Our Value Education programme is our pride and USP.  Planned indigenously, it mandates that all students from Class V upwards, need to work with NGO’s, underprivileged schools or disadvantaged children to make a personal contribution in the form of service. Our children have worked with the National Association for the Blind, Voluntary Blood Donors’ Association, Moral Rearmament, among many others. They also work with street children.
6. Tell us about the Toy Making Club in your school.
Some students are naturally gifted artists. They love ‘to put things together’ aesthetically. Toy making is about using scrap to make toys.
7. You have pioneered the ‘Hill Top Leadership Challenge’ event. How did this idea come about?
Over coffee & chat with Mr Giri Balasubramanium, about 8 years ago. We dwelt over the prospect of enabling leadership skills among students which would include the power to convince & hold sway, retaining clarity of thought in a moment of crisis, and handling tricky situations with dexterity. We were reflecting on how these elements could be made central to the concept, when this idea sprang up. There was no looking back since then.
8. Why do you think leadership should be a vital skill that all young students should pay attention to?
Every student has to play a leadership role in various real life predicaments. The person who jumps out of his car to alleviate a traffic jam, or one who rescues another from an accident, or just simply, the person who convinces his family about a life changing decision: in all of these moments, a person is enacting a leadership role. There are times of personal heroism and defeat, or conflicting situations that demand a patient resolution, or even handling dependent family members, who look up to you for answers. It is an individual’s conviction compounded by his grit that will take him forward in life to assume more challenging leadership roles.
9. What is your message for young, passionate teachers?
The vocation of a Teacher is the most gratifying. Within no time a teacher can influence a child’s mind, open new doors of thought, give wings to his imagination, empower and monitor a takeoff. It gives endless fulfilment to watch the tender fledglings shape into high fliers.
My request to the passionate teachers is to retain the passion and love the journey. Your Job Description will include the love for learning accompanied by excessive patience, but it is the only calling in the world where the rewards assume the form of over brimming love, adoration and respect. Be worthy of all this. Be a role model.