Irina Khelisuphali, 47 years old, Tsaghveri

I was assigned a headmaster of Tsaghveri School three years ago. Before that, I’d worked as a biology teacher.

Having thought I have some leadership skills, I decided to try myself in this area. First, I passed teachers’ certification exam and became a senior teacher.

It was not enough for me though. I had a feeling I could do more than that, that I’ve had much more potential. I thought, having had skills, will and opportunity, why not try myself in another area? I started preparation again and passed headmasters’ exam. There you need to be familiar with lots of laws, leadership skills, and management which is fascinating yet a very busy work in many ways. Apart from being a capable manager, you have to be an expert in psychology while interacting with staff, teachers, children and their parents which is quite tough and responsible job. I believe some are born to be teachers. Leadership skills are also inborn… You may pass an exam yet be incapable of delivering your knowledge to your students. You may pass an exam yet be incapable of delivering your knowledge to your students. It requires ability you either possess or not; If you have it, you should be developing it as there’s always a chance to make mistakes and mistakes and incompetence are unacceptable. However, if you made a mistake anyway, you must be capable of admitting and analyzing it for not to repeat it and move forward. I consider that ability to recognize and learn from my mistakes my strength. I’m not definitely perfect, but I am quite satisfied with my work results.

By the time I was assigned a headmaster, there were unenviable conditions and decrepit infrastructure in the school. With a toilet outside and the only tap, they were trying to keep hygiene as much as they could in those poor conditions. Despite low wages, school cleaners somehow would manage to keep this place clean.
There was a lack of motivation amongst teachers too. They were less focused on professional development which I reckoned was affecting pupils’ accomplishments and it didn’t seem good to me at all as my vision was the school to become competitive and make its niche in an education system. I started with identifying weaknesses. The solution I thought of was improving and updating professional competencies. I involved excellent professionals, who nurtured a lot of esteemed people, into many training projects. Together with them, I also became purposefully and intensely engaged in the training activities. Advancement and outcome are guaranteed when you’re working on yourself every day. I assumed that something new could’ve been built on higher education and fundamental knowledge of our teachers; Fresh approach, new vision, student-oriented academic process planning – all these I reckon a precondition for the growth of motivation and results.

I don’t like an unfinished business either at home or at school. It’s not easy to combine family life with headmaster’s responsibilities, but I manage it. I come home at 6 pm and handle housework equally well.
I was very young, 18 years old girl when I got married. I used to study at the university where attendance was required. 90s’ wars came almost simultaneously bringing numerous problems along. But we managed to survive them…

I respect responsibility, quality, planned and methodical approach to work – all those are essential qualities if you’re striving for a success. Back then, wanting to stand shoulder to shoulder with my husband to overcome those troubled times, I started making cakes. I had a baby and there was no electricity, no gas, no heating, no nothing… That is how we all remember the 90s. I started doing what I could do best. My mother’s a fantastic, renowned confectioner. As a teenager, I would watch her fascinated all the time as she was working and also became very fond of it. That was my thing to do so I also started making cakes and pies. With a baby in one hand and a tray in another, I was carrying cakes down to Izo’s grocery. That’s how it started. Sometime later my son/daughter used to help me, he/she would take cakes to the grocery. I brought up my son/daughter so that he/she now knows the value of a labour and that you have to work hard for wealth and prosperity. Later I’ve decided to choose one line and I’ve been only making cakes since then. Often to 4 am. I started doing this still as a teacher. As I became a headmaster, my mother told me: “You hold a position now. Aren’t you going to quit making cakes?” to which I replied that this was a job I’m fond of and I’m good at it. I’m quite capable of combining these two things and do not think of it as any kind of a problem to merge baking with my primary occupation.

I keep doing things I love to date. Grateful customers and grateful parents are who I draw my strength from – proof that I’m on a right path and have a right vision.

I make all kinds of cakes and try to be creative, to be responsive to present market.

As for how I managed to keep up with everything, at first it was a bit complicated, but careful planning helps a lot. I have everything – every second planned in advance. The most important thing is that if I don’t like the cake, I won’t let a customer take it; I’ll change it, I’ll make it again, but it has to be the best. They often tell me to quit my job at school and open my own confectionery, that in doing so I’m going to earn more. Yet I can’t. I had to fight a lot for both of my jobs, I’ve done a great deal and can’t quit either of them now.

Even these days, there are gender stereotypes according to which a strong hand of a man is best to run schools; But we don’t have a boxing ring here where physical strength is more important than mental agility. Here, leadership skills merged with professionalism are the most important thing. If you want something, you’re going to achieve it. You just need to fight for it, work hard, be single-minded – this is the only genuine and continuous way to success.

Author: Nino Gamisonia
Photo credit: Nino Baidauri

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