For many years in her childhood, Ms Sabirah Mohamed Idris dreamt about becoming a lawyer. However, her passion for children took her on a different life journey towards becoming an early childhood teacher.
Her childhood ambition was to stand in a courtroom and fight for justice as a lawyer. But today, Ms Sabirah Mohamed Idris stands tall in classrooms filled with young children, whom she nurtures with tender, loving care.
"My career shift was no accident", said the 27-year-old deputy centre leader at NTUC's My First Skool located in Parkway Parade. "It was a decision that was thoroughly deliberated."
"After my O levels, I took on a relief teaching job at a private pre-school while waiting for my results. I had plans to do law all along, but when I was teaching, I found that there was so much more that I could contribute as an early childhood teacher. It was then that I decided to pursue a career in this field, and that was the best decision I have ever made," said Sabirah.
The decision to change her life's course some ten years ago did raise some eyebrows. Laughingly, she shared, "My friends were very surprised when they heard I was going into early childhood because I was known to be pretty strict. I was the head councilor back in school! They didn't think I had the disposition to educate and interact with young children. I am firm with the children, but I love them so much and enjoy being around them. There is never a dull moment for me with the kids!"
For Sabirah, teaching young children means a lot more than imparting basic literacy and numeracy. According to her, when one takes up the role of an early childhood teacher, one also becomes an advocator and mentor. "Perhaps even a clown!" She jokes, "Because it is also your role to make the children laugh. It makes lessons fun for everyone! We all learn better when lessons are fun."
Over the past 10 years in the early childhood sector, Sabirah distinguished herself through her teaching and leadership capabilities. She progressed through the ranks from Assistant Teacher, to her current position as a Deputy Centre Leader at NTUC First Campus Parkway Parade. A keen learner, she obtained her Certificate in Preschool Education - Teaching (CPT) and Diploma in Early Childhood Care and Education - Teaching (DECCE-T), while juggling work and studies. Her motivating force was her belief that it is important for teachers to strive for skills mastery so that they can better develop the young children under their care.
Sabirah is currently on board the Advanced Diploma for Early Childhood Leadership (ADECL) course to better hone her knowledge and leadership skills. She is also a recipient of the SkillsFuture Study Awards (SFSA) for the Early Childhood Sector.
Ms Pearlyn Tan, principal of My First Skool at Parkway Parade, said that Sabirah was nominated for the SFSA as "she has shown strong interest towards the early childhood sector, and is receptive towards continuing professional development."
Ms Sabirah and Ms Pearlyn Tan, her Principal
Ms Tan added, "Sabirah shows a keen interest towards learning and is resourceful in developing new ideas and activities to work with children and their families. She works hard to maintain positive relationships with parents and provides them with useful information and insights into their children's learning and development."
"ADECL is specially designed to prepare senior early childhood teachers for the role of centre leadership. It has been extremely useful," Sabirah said, "because what they learn in class is closely aligned with real life experiences and encounters of early childhood teachers. This makes the course very practical and hands-on for those in this field."
However, embarking on this new journey towards career advancement requires a huge amount of commitment and dedication.
"I am grateful that my husband is supportive of this new journey. It gets tiring sometimes, but I am no stranger to juggling work and studies. I completed my Diploma while working as well. Plus, when you see the other students who are in class with you - some of whom are in their 50s - you get that urge to work hard. It is actually really inspiring to see some of my fellow classmates going all out to further their careers as early childhood teachers. They are true examples of lifelong learners," said Sabirah.
Sabirah is also appreciative of the SkillsFuture Study Award as it helps defray the expenses associated with the ADECL course. Being part of the inaugural batch of recipients has given her the confidence to take on more responsibilities at work in the future.
As a deputy centre leader, Sabirah's current job scope largely revolves around mentoring her colleagues to help them maximise their full teaching potential. However, she always makes it a point to personally teach a few pre-school lessons each week. This enables her to stay connected with the children.
"Even though I am playing a mentor role right now, teaching is something I will always be passionate about. By staying active in the pre-school classes, I can be around the children more and stay connected to the on-the-ground realities of what happens in these classes. This translates to a better understanding of my fellow collagues and the problems they face," said Sabirah.
For Sabirah, one of the greatest joys she feels as a teacher and leader in this field is when she sees and hears how the children in her class have progressed. She shared that she often receives emails and Facebook messages from parents whose children have graduated from pre-school to primary school. They update her about how their children have successfully adapted to their new environments, and blossomed as unique individuals.
Madam Nurah Ramli, parent of Isa Kazu (Nursery) and Misha Yuki (K2) observed that the children in school really enjoy being around Sabirah.
Sabirah with Mdm Nurah Ramli and her three children
"As a parent volunteer, I have seen how Sabirah conducts her classes. She is a great motivator, and always gives the children reasons to learn new skills and knowledge. She encourages the children to express what they've learned through their work and projects. As parents, we are grateful that our kids get the opportunity to be under her care and education. At times, I also turn to Sabirah for advice on motivating my kids through different teaching methods," said Madam Nurah.
Sabirah has never once regretted her decision to enter the early childhood sector. This is a career choice, which has enabled her to grow as an individual.
"It is a wonderful feeling, each time I see my children graduate and hear how well they are doing. I know that in some way, I have played a part in shaping them up for the future," said Sabirah.
Sabirah's story was also featured in Berita Harian (28 September 2016)!
She also joined DJ Hafeez Glamour on Warna 94.2FM Tamu Vaganza on 20 September 2016 to share her experiences and tips on building strong parent-teacher partnerships!