Shobna Dhamija: Dealing with Challenges in Education- Head On!
Shobna Dhamija

What is the most common trait of the world’s most successful people throughout human existence? Perhaps leadership. Or optimism! Many would say that there is no specific recipe to success in any walk of life.

One might also discover that sometimes success knocks on the door unannounced. Success’s fair credit is diverted to a mere ‘Accident’ at such times.

The story of Archimedes ‘accidentally’ discovering the theory of Buoyancy when he jumped into a swimming pool holds to be a classic example. The theory of Buoyancy and the science of Fluid Mechanics owes a lot to this accident.

But does success really depend on fate?

Shobna Dhamija, Principal at Silver Oaks International School, utterly defies this question through her exceptional contribution to education for over 20 years.

And it is no accident! But a combination of unwavering perseverance and unmatched passion for fulfilling one’s dreams.

The Knowledge Review caught up with the seasoned educator to comprehend and share a slice of her wisdom with our readers.

Journey of a Profound Educator

Shobna has taught in various schools and colleges in India and USA for over 20 years. She has a background in design and commerce. She started her career as a designer and visiting faculty in a design college. After moving to California, she pursued advanced education courses and started working in colleges and schools with children of diverse nationalities and cultures, where she realized her instinctive passion and joy for working with children. After moving to India, she joined Silver Oaks Bangalore as a full-time faculty since the inception of its first campus in 2013 as a founding teacher and coordinator. She discovered the school to be a unique blend of rooted eastern and progressive western culture. The school’s inspiring ecosystem and transformational leadership gave her opportunities to grow in her role. Later she joined as a head of school in their newly founded second campus of Silver Oaks in Whitefield, Bangalore.

Shobna believes that the role of a teacher is to facilitate students in self-discovery. She is passionate about empowering learners to think, lead and sustain a lifelong love of learning. She endeavours to build diverse classrooms where students’ talents and unique learning styles are celebrated.

Source of Motivation and Intent

Shobna Dhamija belongs to a family of educators. While growing up, she has always observed her mother welcoming her students to their home to support them beyond academics, to express and articulate confidently for various competitions. She marveled at her passion and energy to balance her personal and professional life with zest throughout her career of 38 years. These qualities touched Shobna deeply and became a source of her inspiration when she stepped into the field of education. Even to this date, her mother continues to be her first role model. She also credits her English teacher in high school, who has motivated her to take up challenges, cope with changes, and become independent in making decisions.

Driving Values of the Silver Oaks

Shobna has been working with Silver Oaks International School for nearly a decade now. While speaking about the school’s mission, she asserts, “Silver Oaks stands for its mission to impart quality education and groom young people who will live for a purpose, learn to apply, lead with determination and leave a timeless legacy.”

The Silver Oaks School believes in an inside-out approach of Character first and Competence next. Whether teachers or learners, the school creates an environment where people find harmony in themselves, build the capacity to identify and solve problems, and become contributors to society as they grow up. Shobna adds, “I have been very impressed with how our students embody these values in their personal and professional lives even after graduating from school.”

     Embracing Transformation

Shobna instructs, “Virtual learning has necessitated the SilverOak school community to integrate digital learning and sustain learners’ interest by co-constructing the learning together.” The Silver Oaks School’s priority has always been its students’ learning continuity and well-being. This required nurturing a deep bond between teachers and students and preparing them to develop self-responsibility for their learning. The school thus equipped the teachers with training, digital resources, and flexibility.

Silver Oaks School has successfully facilitated learning online, hybrid, and face-to-face modes for all grades. “Our parent community in primary grades teamed up with the school to make learning interactive and individualized. We ensured the morning assemblies were carefully planned with well-being sessions and student-led assembly, which became very popular. The one-hour learning session at the school included interactions, writing, and reflecting. I am proud to say that our students have done an excellent job in learning how to learn via virtual classrooms,” Shobna adds.

Furthermore, she expresses the need to apply the teaching tools and initiatives that proved effective during online learning and integrate them with face-to-face teaching. For this, the school leadership envisions upskilling and empowering teachers with the right technology and socio-emotional learning.

Surfing on the Wave of Challenges

While reflecting on the challenges and struggles in education, Shobna asserts, “A new school is a challenge for anyone, even without a pandemic. We all had a bit of anxiety, different perspectives, and many questions as the last two years were filled with unthinkable changes.” Despite the multiple challenges, the school marched and welcomed the changes. The school’s collective strength of 5 campuses and collaboration between the teams helped us emerge stronger and more confident. This year the school has observed diverse teaching skills and what’s truly admirable is the trust, passion, and determination of the school community never to doubt their abilities. Shobna concludes, “As a head of school, I believe challenges are the opportunities to learn and evolve from your comfort zone and cope with changes.”

Shobna Dhamija believes that education is the right and only tool of empowerment. While speaking about it, she says, “To ensure the continuity of education for all, our institution went an extra mile to support the families to give concessions and waive off the school fee for those who suffered a financial crisis due to the pandemic.”

     Achievements and Recognition

As a teacher Shobna Dhamija has won the Think-CIQ, creativity, intelligence quest award as India’s top 100 awakened and innovative mentors.

The Silver Oaks School has received awards for the 2nd Best Emerging school in the international and national curriculum by Time Education Excellence 2021 and No. 1 Emerging School from Education World.

     Silver Words of Guidance

When asked about sharing some advice for upcoming and aspiring educators, Shobna replies, “Teaching is a human-centric profession. As the saying goes, teaching is the only profession that teaches and prepares all the other professions. It’s central to the role and  responsibility to do anything to support learners to evolve both academically and emotionally.” She believes that by making it ones choice and priority, one can experience that no other job is as rewarding and gratifying. She adds, “Over the years working with teachers from diverse backgrounds, ethnicity, nationality, and cultures, I discovered that the most admirable qualities in a teacher are passion and a growth mindset.”

     Heading to the Future

Shobna claims, “The action never stops in a progressive school like Silver Oaks. In times of uncertainty, one must be prepared to embrace change, diversity, and all stakeholders’ broad perspectives.” Over the years, Silver Oaks school has implemented many good practices to achieve trust, appreciation, and respect from students and parents.

The school envisions to be consistent with its process to empower and build capacity in our teachers through workshops. As Shobna embarks, “Value generation in students prepares them for whatever lies ahead by learning to make good choices that carry them forward and become independent learners.”

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