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Teacher tell-tale signs for parents

Parents should under no circumstances allow a private tutor to lock a door when alone with a child, say veteran teachers and psychologists.

Private tutor Puja Singh, who was caught on camera assaulting a three-year-old boy in a Lake Town flat last Tuesday, had locked the door of the room by telling the mother to wait outside while she “persuaded the naughty child” to study.

Aban Confectioner, head of the primary and junior sections at Modern High School for Girls, said the boy’s mother should have immediately refused to allow the teacher to lock the door. “Parents need to be extra vigilant in the first few months after appointing a tutor. They should make note of the tutor’s tone and observe whether he or she enjoys being with the child.”

Parents are also advised to talk to the child about it and keep an eye on his or her body language in the presence of the tutor. “Some children cringe when they see their tutors. A tutor might not exude warmth, in which case the person won’t gain the child’s love and attention,” said Angela Ghose, principal of Union Chapel School.

So what are the danger signs to look out for before appointing a private tutor?

Experts suggest that parents be specific while interviewing a potential private tutor, such as: “How would you discipline my child?”

If the tutor thinks that making a kid hold his ears and stand in a corner is a way of enforcing discipline, “one must understand that the person doesn’t know how to handle a child”, Confectioner said.

While appointing teachers for the junior section, schools often ask questions on how to maintain discipline because the answers can be revealing. But what teaching veterans can easily discern might not be as obvious to young parents. Hence the need to be extra cautious and have more than one interaction before appointing a tutor.

“You can ask questions such as: ‘If my child has been given a task and she can’t do it well, how would you deal with it?’ The response should give the parent an idea of how the person will turn out to be,” Confectioner said.

Ghose, who was previously with St. James’ School, advises parents to read between the lines to judge whether the choice of tutor for their child is the right one.

“One tutor might say: ‘I will be firm with the child’. Another person will say: ‘I will tell a story (to put the child at ease).’ This should give an idea whether the teacher is able to relate to the child or not,” Ghose added.

Betty Mathew, head of the junior section at St. James’ School, said parents should not be cagey about asking probing questions because “it’s not about interfering but interacting”.

A private tutor recommended by someone known to the parents would usually be a safe bet but it is still necessary to run a background check. At least the phone number and address of the tutor must be verified, experts advise.

“Parents must ensure complete transparency. They should find out which other child the teacher is teaching and make it a point to speak to that child and his or her parents,” psychiatrist Jai Ranjan Ram said.

Ruvena Sanyal, counsellor at La Martiniere for Boys, said there was no alternative to being doubly sure about a tutor before entrusting the person with their child. “Checking the antecedents of a tutor is a must. And make sure the teacher is with the child in a space where you can monitor what is going on.”

It isn’t just violent methods that parents need to worry about. If not monitored, there is also the possibility of a child being sexually abused.

What other precautions should parents take while hiring tutors? Tell ttmetro@abpmail.com