Getting to know…Farah Gazal of Begin Bright Burwood

The Begin Bright Primary Program is based on the curriculum from all states of Australia, covering all aspects of literacy and numeracy in a fun and exciting way. Farah Gazal is the owner of Begin Bright Burwood and we caught up recently.
Tell us about yourself
I am 33 years old and have been a primary school teacher for 13 years. I hold a Bachelor of English language and a Diploma in Primary teaching. I have taught students in Lebanon, Dubai, and Kuwait and have experienced teaching children with varied backgrounds.
I am a mum to a 2-year old son and moved to Australia 3 years ago from Lebanon, after I got married. I left my job, my friends and my family to move here with my husband.
When I arrived, I wanted to do my own thing and open my own business. I started a small tutoring office and had kids come for one on one tutoring sessions. Then, I had a baby a year later. Once my son was 18 months old, I was ready to go back to work. After some extensive thinking and research of what I wanted to do next I realised there was a franchise opportunity at Begin Bright and fell in love with the school readiness program and what they offered. So, I took the plunge and opened Begin Bright Burwood in January 2016, and I couldn’t be happier!
Tell us about Begin Bright Burwood
We are an affordable high quality education program run by fully qualified teachers. Lessons are delivered in a fun and engaging way that children don’t even realise they are learning. Begin Bright creates happy, smart and confident children.
We run various programs to suit the needs of students. The school readiness program is for kids 2-5 years of age and is broken down into different levels. There is a maximum of 8 kids in each class and parents can choose any day between Monday & Saturday to attend for 1 hour per week where we deliver lessons that are fun and engaging. Each 1-hour class involves literacy and numeracy. This not only teaches them their basics so that they’re academically prepared for school, but also gives them a great foundation and love of learning.
Starting with the Pink Level for children who are 2-3 years old – they come in for a 45 minutes class and the parents stay with them. Each lesson revolves around crafts, songs, playing and focusing on numbers, shapes, colours and so much more.
Green level is for children 3-4 years old. This level focuses on alphabet recognition and sounding them out. Students also get to practice writing their names, holding the pencil correctly and working on their fine motor skills. We also focus on numbers 1-10 where they learn to recognise them visually, write them and show them on their fingers.
The Yellow Level is for kids who are going to school the following year. We focus not only on alphabet recognition, but they will be able to decode simple words such as c-a-t ‘cat’ by listening to different sounds. They will also learn to recognise and write numbers 1-20 and learn to add single digit numbers. We also focus on a child’s fine motor skills and pencil grip.
The final school readiness program is Orange Level. This level is suitable for kids who are ready to read. It gives children a really good foundation and we encourage fluency in counting, adding, subtracting, and developing problem-solving skills.
Then, we offer primary tutoring, which is one on one tutoring in maths and English. This is appointment based and is usually run in the afternoons or Saturday mornings. We start with an assessment and then we design a tailored program according to the child’s specific needs. The sessions run for either 30, 45, or 60 minutes depending on how long we recommend the tutoring session should be. We use the Begin Bright program and follow the Australian school curriculum.
What can kids and parents expect from Begin Bright Burwood?
Great customer service and we go to great lengths to accommodate parents. All of the teachers are qualified in early childhood or primary school. Our fees can be paid weekly, fortnightly or monthly and if they miss a lesson (with 24 hours notice) they can rebook into another available class that week so they don’t miss out on their lesson. All children who have attended Begin Bright Burwood, specifically since term 1, have shown a huge difference in their progress. I’ve been told by many of our parents that their children are keen to learn more. Confidence is what parents seek most and that is what we create.
Is the centre just for kids who struggling or how about kids that are doing well at school?
The school readiness program is for all kids ready to learn. We also have kids that are already doing well but the parents enrol them just to give them the extra work. For example, we have a kindergarten student who is really bright at maths but not really challenged at school. He finishes his schoolwork in 5-10 minutes and then ends up reading a book. His parents send him to us and he is doing year 3 maths work. When he comes to us, he feels excited because he is able to solve math’s problems that are 2-3 years more advanced than his age. So it is not just for struggling kids but for the gifted as well.
For kids who are struggling, tutoring helps them to fall in line with the curriculum. I have a year 2 student who is struggling in maths so I work with her to find different strategies to solve a problem. When students are able to solve a problem they will feel more confident and that is what we help them to try to achieve.
What would be two bits of advice you could share with parents on how to prepare their kids for big school?
Encourage your kids to read: Always read to them! Reading is so important as it leads to better writing, imagination and creativity. Einstein said, “If you want your children to be intelligent read them fairy tales.” I have been reading to my son ever since he was 3 months old. He loves it and chooses reading over playing with toys. Reading doesn’t have to be just from books. Words are everywhere! They are in magazines, on the streets, restaurant menus, in cookbooks etc…
Get them ready socially and emotionally: Try to find time to take your child to either swimming, dancing, music lessons or you can take them playgroups or arrange play dates. Children learn important social and emotional skills when they have to solve problems that arise in play with others.
Why is school-readiness so important? Does it really affect children’s learning?
It is the basis of all school years. If a child is school ready, he or she will show a high level of confidence. That child will participate in classroom discussions, work and play independently and make friends. According to research and as an experienced teacher, early learning (especially from birth to five) directly influences a child’s ability to learn and succeed in school.
What do you see as the biggest challenges parents face today?
Connecting with their child: Modern technology and social media have taken over the new generation. Children are so involved with technology that it is disconnecting them from the real world.
Prioritising time for themselves: Parents have been neglecting themselves in order to meet the needs of their children. It is very important to try to find time for yourself to keep you going.
Why did you choose teaching as a career?
I was a business marketing major but then one day I was walking to university and passed by a preschool near my house. I decided to apply and work there. Although I was inexperienced I really enjoyed being around kids. So I decided to study English language so that I could teach. I taught at the preschool for 3 years. I then taught at a primary school for another 3 years. After moving to Kuwait, I worked at an American school and started a teaching blog. I named the blog “Miss Farah”. I started getting comments from readers, which motivated me to share more of my teaching methods and my daily life as a teacher. I was featured on television several times and in magazines and newspapers discussing my blog. That made me love my job even more and I wanted to offer more. That’s when I started my business. I don’t blog anymore but I have left the site up as a point of reference for others I also think that teaching is one of the greatest career choices I have ever made because I get to help children achieve their best. Little things like helping a child overcome a problem or understand a tricky concept can suddenly become incredibly rewarding.
What motivates you?
I am motivated to be the best teacher I can be, so I can make a difference in a child’s life. It’s the moment when a student’s eyes light up, and they realise they have succeeded in learning something new. I get satisfaction from knowing that students have learned something they never knew before. My motivation comes from the little successes I have with students throughout the day.
How do you find balance in the day for yourself?
My son goes to childcare 3 days a week. These days are when I work the most. On the other days, there is another teacher present at the centre while I work from home. For myself, I am into mediation and regularly work out at the gym. When it comes to clearing the mind, I find there’s nothing more therapeutic than a long walk on the beach.
Favourite spots in the Inner West?
I love Burwood because it is where I’ve lived ever since I moved to Sydney. I’m so used to it that I can’t imagine myself living anywhere else. I like the fact that is always crowded with people. It is also a very convenient location for us as there is Westfield Burwood, Burwood park and the train station all just within a few minutes away from our home. Cabarita Park is also another favourite. It is the place where I go to clear my mind. I just love the view of the water and the boats and the beautiful houses there.
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