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
Educators who are mums – how their methods change after having kids
Datin Zara British Montessori Preparatory School
THE BRITISH MONTESSORI PREPARATORY
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/fb.com/ BritMont).