Farhanah Jeewa took an unusual route to teaching. Her first degree was in law, followed by a legal practice course. But she didn’t have a clear career path after leaving university. She decided to give teaching a go, earned a Diploma in Education, and taught for four years before moving to New Zealand from the UK three years ago to join Auckland’s Avondale College.
From law to maths and back to the law “After I did my law degree I found a teaching job and did a subject enhancement course in maths for a year and then my teaching degree. Maths is very method-based and requires logical thinking, which is similar to law. Contract law, for example, is methodical, with processes you have to follow, much like maths.
I always loved maths. At school I found it very easy – it is methodical, and I enjoy something having a sequence or a series, and the answer is either right or wrong. If you break up a maths problem, you follow a few steps and come up with an answer. It's like a puzzle.
I teach maths at Avondale College, so in my classes I want the students to feel like maths is fun – there is such a negative view about it and people normally don't like it much.
I’m lucky at Avondale as I’ve been able to use my law degree with the introduction of the Cambridge International Mathematics and Law.
Avondale College is the first school in New Zealand to be offering Cambridge International AS & A Level Law this year. It’s one of the new specialised syllabuses from Cambridge which is ideal for students who have an interest in reading Law at university. We study the English legal system, which is similar to the New Zealand system. The students are enjoying it, and they've learned a lot.
The inspiration for law came from my personal legal background. I felt I could give the students more than just maths, a love for law as well, so that’s why we’ve introduced it.”
What the students learn about law “Students were initially curious to see what the Law subject provided and soon realised that they would be learning about the fundamental aspects of our legal system – how laws are made, how they are interpreted and how they are adapted.
I think the most enjoyable part of the syllabus is learning about barristers and solicitors and the qualifications and training needed to go into the legal profession. Students absolutely love the mock trial in class. We complete two different trials and students get to see the role of each person within the legal system. It is an enjoyable experience to see them become much more confident in the second trial.
My teaching style changes with every lesson. In some classes the students are very independent, and in others there are some students who need more structure. I try to create an inclusive classroom to help me to meet the needs of all my students.
The Law syllabus is broken down into units like ‘Machinery of justice’, which includes topics on civil and criminal courts and sentencing principles, and ‘Sources of Law’, which includes human rights and law reform. I have the flexibility to choose the order of topics and set a pace that’s appropriate for all my students regardless of ability. They have a whole year to learn and revise and by the end of the year I can see that they link everything that they’ve learned together to solve problems.”
Supporting students to grow in confidence “What I find especially interesting about teaching Cambridge International programmes is that at the start of the year there are 30 students who come into my classroom anxious and unconfident. We go through the syllabus and by the end of the first few weeks the students are so confident they don't even ask me for help – they’ll ask each other and then say, ‘I've got it, this is the answer’. It’s just perfect – we’re creating students who are independent and take responsibility for their own learning, and Cambridge International does that.
For me, a successful student is one who's comfortable with the question that's given to them –confident enough to break it into different pieces and to try and come up with an answer, without being afraid to make mistakes. The curriculum helps them become confident in working with information and ideas and with taking some risks in their learning so they will develop skills for life beyond the classroom.”