The teach­ing pro­fes­sion is a call­ing that a select few can ex­cel in. But what hap­pens when you be­come a par­ent? TOM Kids speaks to two ed­u­ca­tor mums who have it all fig­ured out and have suc­cess­ful teach­ing ca­reers

Time Out Malaysia Kids - - Contents -

Ed­u­ca­tors who are mums – how their meth­ods change after hav­ing kids

Datin Zara Bri­tish Montes­sori Prepara­tory School


SCHOOL may come across as a whim­si­cal won­der­land when you first step in the com­pound. A yacht on the front lawn stops passers-by in their tracks and the sight of happy chil­dren in the play­ground elic­its smiles. Kevin, the school’s res­i­dent duck, wad­dles out of our way dur­ing a tour of the grounds, which Datin Zara presents with much en­thu­si­asm. ‘I picked Ta­man TAR be­cause, as you can see, we have clear views of the beau­ti­ful blue sky. We’re also sur­rounded by the for­est so we get the best oxy­gen. Chil­dren should play out­side.’

Datin Zara has been teach­ing since 1982 and was based in Cardiff, Wales and Buffalo, New York be­fore mak­ing her home in Malaysia. The tran­si­tion to Asia ex­posed her to some hard truths, un­for­tu­nately. ‘The bot­tom line is that many schools here don’t care about the process, but want re­sults,’ said Datin Zara. ‘ Yes, we tar­get high aca­demic achieve­ments, but we un­der­stand that chil­dren need to play and to learn, to find ex­cite­ment in the process but not be stressed out. In­stead of an in­sti­tu­tional en­vi­ron­ment, my cen­tre is a school and a home.’

Moth­ers who are ed­u­ca­tors such as Datin Zara are keenly aware that what hap­pens at home gives her the ap­ti­tude to han­dle sit­u­a­tions in the class­room and vice versa. She draws par­al­lels between her ex­pe­ri­ences as a mother and an ed­u­ca­tor in many ar­eas such as lan­guage de­vel­op­ment. ‘One of my sons didn’t speak un­til he was five. It to­tally flew over the cuckoo’s nest that he wasn’t speak­ing, and later, I re­alised that his older sib­lings were al­ways ac­com­mo­dat­ing his needs. Ev­ery­body could pre­dict his needs, so he didn’t

In­stead of an in­sti­tu­tional en­vi­ron­ment, my cen­tre is a school and a home

have to ask for any­thing – he was so used to be­ing served. A change of en­vi­ron­ment, in his case, would have been ideal, so he would have had to speak to peo­ple to ask for things.’

‘On a sim­i­lar note, I had a mute stu­dent who made gur­gling sounds, but couldn’t speak. When we sat him down, we re­alised that there was noth­ing wrong with his voice box or his ears. But in the case of this child, he was sur­rounded by guardians who were mul­ti­lin­gual, so he couldn’t fig­ure out which words be­longed to what lan­guage. What we did was to cut out every lan­guage save for English for six months, and then add in Man­darin and Malay over time.’ Over-su­per­vi­sion or mixed guardian­ship can be detri­men­tal to a child’s lan­guage de­vel­op­ment, warned Datin Zara.

The par­ent of five ad­mits that mak­ing mis­takes as a mother has shed light on what makes an ami­able stu­dent. ‘If you’re able to man­age a child’s day in such a way that he or she hardly cries, the child adopts a pos­i­tive out­look on life rather than re­gard­ing every hur­dle as an in­ter­fer­ence. Such chil­dren are smi­ley, well­be­haved and eas­ier to take care of be­cause they’re less ag­i­tated, clingy or wor­ried.’

6 Jalan 1, Ta­man Tun Ab­dul Razak, Am­pang, KL (03 4266 6692/ BritMont).

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