Early childhood care and education is crucial to give children a strong foundation in life. Teachers themselves, however, also need to continually improve their skills to better care for the children. At Bright Juniors @Corporation Drive, a subsidiary of G8 Education Singapore, self-improvement among teachers is treasured and carefully nurtured.
Ms Farhana Mustafa, Early Childhood Teacher, Bright Juniors @Corporation Drive
Whenever two children quarrel in Ms Farhana Mustafa's class, the 27-year-old early childhood teacher would deploy a tried-and-tested method to diffuse the quarrel. She asks the children to tell her why they fight, what they dislike about each other's actions, discuss a solution, and then apologise to each other once the matter is resolved.
Ms Farhana diffusing a disagreement between two children.
"Two-way communication with children is very important. One way to build a good relationship with children is to respect them as individuals, listen to their thoughts and ideas during discussions, and get them to resolve issues among themselves," said Ms Farhana, who has been a teacher at Bright Juniors @Corporation Drive for about six years.
Since Ms Farhana entered the early childhood sector, she has constantly sought ways to better support the holistic development of children under her care. Over the years, parents have praised her patience with their children. Her passion for the early childhood sector is also evident to her employers.
At one point, she took the initiative to attend a three-day course on speech and learning support, so that she could help a child with special needs. The child had difficulties expressing himself and articulating his thoughts.
The course was very useful because I learned to use his interests in music and movement to expand his vocabulary, and to patiently build up his sentences from two words to four words and then six words," she said.
Her drive for self-improvement led Bright Juniors to nominate her for ECDA's Professional Development Programme for Teachers (PDP(T)), a structured three-year programme aimed to support the professionals development of early childhood professionals with the potential to take on larger roles in their organisations.
Ms Farhana at the PDP Appointment Ceremony with Minister Tan Chuan-Jin.
Ms Farhana is excited to be part of the inaugural batch of PDP teachers appointed in May 2016. She intends to maximise the learning opportunities offered by the PDP Programme and apply them to her work.
Ms Farhana with Mrs Karen Soh, Centre Manager of Operations at G8 Education Singapore
Mrs Karen Soh, centre manager of operations at G8 Education Singapore, the parent company of Bright Juniors, shared that Ms Farhana was a good fit for the programme as she already goes the extra mile in her work.
Mrs Soh shared, "I remembered there were two children in her class who hardly spoke or showed any interest in classroom activities. They would throw terrible tantrums if they did not get their way. Knowing their unique needs and character, Ms Farhana would have small-talk sessions with one child throughout the day, and hug and joke with another, using simple sentences. Over time, she successfully coaxed both children to speak up, voice their needs and get involved in class activities and discussions.
"Teachers also need to praise children when they do a good job," said Ms Farhana. "Constantly encourage them to try when they are hesitant. Help them overcome their shyness, for example, by appointing them to be leaders during group activities."
Parents such as Madam Ong Yiwen, whose daughter Jerine joined Bright Juniors in 2014, also commended Ms Farhana's dedication to their children. Mdm Ong said that Jerine had trouble adapting to the school at first and was unable to focus on the instructions given to her.
"Jerine was very insecure because there were so many strangers around her. However, Ms Farhana was very patient and made sure she never missed out on any classroom activity. She also ensured that Jerine's classmate did not leave her out, and that someone was always with her," said Mdm Ong.
In fact, Ms Farhana was equally attentive to Jerine's sister, Jermaine.
Ms Farhana with Mr and Mrs Cheong, parents of Jerine and Jermaine.
"When Jermaine started school at Bright Juniors, she cried non-stop for the first few days. Ms Farhana had to carry her all morning. When I arrived, I would find her sleeping on Ms Farhana. That little gesture of her willingness to comfort my child touched me, and I knew from then that my children would be in good hands with her."
Madam Ho Suet Wah, mother of Jowen and Owen, added that Ms Farhana makes it a point to keep parents updated on the children's progress. Her enthusiasm in engaging parents with the aim of helping them understand their children's development is something that Mdm Ho appreciates very much.
Ms Farhana with Mr and Mrs Kwek, parents of Jowen and Owen.
"During parent-teacher meetings, she's able to tell us precisely how our children are doing. She also does a great job of periodically updating me about my children's behaviour and their activities in school. This I really appreciate." Mdm Ho said.
Both mothers observed that their children have blossomed under Ms Farhana's care. Both mothers observed that their children have blossomed under Ms Farhana's care. Jerine, for instance, has become more vocal and enjoys learning and spending time in school, while Jowen and Owen have overcome their fear of being separated from their parents for long hours.
"Jerine is incredibly comfortable with Ms Farhana. Once, we went on a staycation for two days, and Jerine asked her daddy to bring Ms Farhana along!" Mdm Ong recalled with a laugh.
Mdm Ho added, "Jowen often tells me, 'Ms Farhana said this' or 'Ms Farhana taught me that'. She has a fun, loving way of teaching that makes things sound so interesting, and Jowen is very much influenced by her teaching, both morally and academically. Overall, I feel that Ms Farhana has exceeded my expectations of a childcare teacher for my children."
Ms Farhana, on her part, said that early childhood teachers need to communicate more with their children's parents, especially about the children's behaviour at home, to better care for their charges. Such regular communication also helps to ensure consistency between the boundaries set in the pre-school and at home.
"The wonderful thing about being an early childhood teacher is," said Farhana with a smile, "No tomorrow will be the same as yesterday, and every day offers you different challenges, experiences and opportunities!".
Farhana's story was also featured in
Minister Tan Chuan-Jin's blog post at MSF Conversations and
Berita Harian (28 September 2016).
Also learn more about
ECDA's Professional Development Programme for Teachers with Farhana!