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You could easily describe her as the lady who opens a thousand minds. Training young ones with absolute devotion, Merzia Lakdawala is a person whose teaching skills comes only a close second to her love for the l'il tykes.

Merzia, who is no stranger to the world of teaching, admits she loves making an impression on young minds! Ask her why she took up this particular profession, she says, "After marriage, when my son was two and my daughter, five, I got bored of just sitting at home and doing nothing. I've always thought teaching is one of the most respectable jobs.

Merzia, who is quite a perfectionist in her own right, was not one to start without creating a firm base for herself. She joined the Early Child Education Course at the Sophia Polytechnic (Mumbai). "Once again, I was not happy just sitting at home (after college hours) waiting for my kids to come home from school. So I got a part-time job at The Tinker Bell High School in the Nursery Section!" recalls Mrs. Lakdawala.

An efficient time manager, she found more time on hand. Enough to take up another course at St.Margaret's (Mumbai)! "This was one of the most wonderful experiences I've had," she says. "I soon felt like moving on. This was the time the Al Madresa schools were coming up. I was interviewed and accepted! The Al Madresa Institution is very close to my heart. This is the one part of me I would hate to let go." Here too, the irrepressible Merzia soon rose from teacher to Head of the Nursery section.

Over the years, the Al Madresa School has spread its wings. Giving seminars, holding crash courses for teachers and sometimes even having to deal with their temper tantrums! But none of these pressures has ever been strong enough to make her take a step backwards. "These are the things I love to do! Watching a child fade away into a locked up shell, due to bad behavior from the teacher or any other influence, is what hurts me the most. I think children should be taught the right way of learning and most importantly understanding a topic from a young age. But at the same time, they should not be forced or pressurized into doing anything."

One of the most important courses that Merzia feels strongly about is the P.Y.P. Program. "This one is an International Curriculum Program. It basically helps teachers understand the three principals:-
What do we want the children to learn?
How best will they understand?
How will we know they have understood everything?(tm)
So through this particular program, we basically help the student to become a better enquirer," quips the patient teacher.
Not one to be left far behind Merzia has also zoomed in on the School Internet. Ask her whether it really helps, and she answers, "It's one of the best places to gather information. It's got eight hundred to nine hundred sites devoted to teaching. Some of the methods are absolutely amazing!
Speaking of patience, Merzia says, "I think the worst thing a teacher can do is Teach Too Much Too Fast. It is very important for a teacher to be hundred per cent confident about what she's teaching and how she is getting through to her students. I have seen so many cases where the kids have developed an inferiority complex because the teacher hasn't been able to give him/her enough time!"

Any new programs to avoid this hazard?
"Oh yes! We have just started practicing this thing called the `Lady Bird Reading Scheme'. Here the whole class is divided into small groups of say, five or six kids. Each group has a teacher who supervises themNo one was left behind and there were no traces of any unhealthy competition!"

Unhealthy competition is one thing we all have dealt with (Thanks to most of our parents!); but then again which mother or father likes to see their child lagging behind? Merzia has a solution for this too! "The best way to avoid this is to have Parent- Teacher meetings. I always urge people to have at least three meetings throughout the academic year. One, in the very beginning of the year, one in the middle and one at the end. These meetings basically help the parents to get to understand the teacher's views and vice-versa. In fact, it's quite amazing, the amount of ideas one can gather from these meetings! For example, there are so many parents who are quite scared of letting their kids take part in any extra curricular activities, for the fear of hurting the child! Or there are cases where parents are hesitant about sending their children on field-trips, because they do not know the teacher well enough. Now this is where these meetings come in handy."

Speaking of extra-curricular activities, doesn't it put too much pressure on the teacher? "It does, but if you love your job enough, it doesn't scare you. For example, I've taken the kids riding, swimming on hikes and there's never been a problem to date. All it takes to conduct these trips is good organisation!

Any last words of wisdom?
"Never teach a child more than he can digest!"

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