Nothing makes this Chinese language teacher from Faith Kindergarten more excited than having to teach a child who dislikes the Chinese language.
For Mdm Chua Bee Lee, a career as an early childhood educator was perhaps the most natural profession to pursue.
After all, many of her family members and relatives were teachers and their conversations during family gatherings would almost always be about their experiences in school.
Mdm Chua started her career, however, as a clerical officer in a school. Though her job scope was primarily focused on administrative matters, she did manage to get a glimpse into the intricacies of educating children when she occasionally assumed the role of a relief teacher.
Realising that she enjoyed those fleeting moments as an early childhood educator, Mdm Chua decided to learn more about the craft by consulting her peers about their lesson plans and how they went about creating it.
"I still remember how my grandfather told me that teaching is no joking matter, and that if I was serious about becoming an early childhood teacher, I needed to do my due diligence," said the 52-year-old, who heeded his advice and attended a series of professional development courses throughout her career.
"Even before I became an early childhood teacher, my son's classmates would look up to me and say 'Good morning, teacher'. I guess I had the aura of an educator," laughed Mdm Chua.
She has since worked at a number of pre-school, including those by NTUC and YMCA, spending at least five years at each of them. About two years ago, Mdm Chua joined Faith Kindergarten as a Chinese language teacher.
Mdm Chua said she is most interested in teaching children who are six years and younger because she is eager to exert a positive influence at a very critical stage in their growth. She added that her teaching methods are influenced by one of her former teachers in school, who once said that the use of humour would make the learning process more enjoyable and effective.
"Children are like blank canvases waiting for you to fill. While it is an exciting challenge to undertake, there is also great responsibility on the part of early childhood educators like us. A child's future will be affected if you don't do your job well," said Mdm Chua.
The biggest challenge she faces as a Chinese launguage educator is, unsurprisingly, the language barrier. According to her, many children in Faith Kindergarten come from English-speaking families and often enter the school with little or no grasp of their mother tongue.
She is, however, hardly fazed. In fact, she believes that teaching these children actually helps her improve as an early childhood educator as it forces her to hone her teaching approach.
Mrs Elsie Yee, the principal at Faith Kindergarten, shared that Mdm Chua has received several commendation letters from parents, even though the latter has only been with the school for two years. Once such parent who has lavished praise on Mdm Chua is Felicia Goh. Felicia said that her daughter's command of the Chinese Language improved by leaps and bounds after just a few months at Faith Kindergarten.
Mdm Chua, Felicia and her daughter
Felicia recalled one occasion when her daughter asked for help in translating some words from English to Chinese. As it turned out, it was because the child wanted to have a conversation with Mdm Chua in mandarin the next day.
For Mdm Chua, one of the most memorable incidents at Faith Kindergarten involved a child who has a short tongue, which resulted in him being unable to speak properly.
To help the child overcome the problem, she made him observe her lips when she uttered a word before getting him to mimic the movements. After months of intensive conditioning, the child's speech had improved so dramatically that he couldn't stop singing Chinese songs in class.
"That is till today my biggest achievement ever. I always love a good challenge," quipped Mdm Chua, "Give me a child who hates learning Chinese and I will make him or her love it."
Did you catch Mdm Chua and Felicia when they were interviewed live on Capital 9.58FM 早点正能量? They discussed the importance of parent-teacher partnerships and tips on how to nurture a strong partnership.