Being an early childhood educator is no easy task, Jenny Chew learned from an early age that patience is essential to the job.
Ms Jenny Chew first had an inkling that working with young children might be a good fit for her at the tender age of 10. That was the year she got a baby brother, and started helping her mother to take care of him. "I helped to change his diapers, apart from other care routines," she shared nostalgically.
Jenny enjoyed learning to care for the newest addition to her family so much that she started to consider a career in educating young children.
"I find them very cute!" she declares with a laugh.
Driven by her ambition, she earned a Certificate in Preschool Education (Teaching) in 2005, and soon found herself in her very first preschool classroom. It turned out to be far tougher than what she had expected.
"My first class was made up of 17 toddlers aged from 18 months to two years old," she recalls. "Being new to the sector, I found it tough to handle initially. Once one child started crying, the others followed!"
"I almost wanted to quit, but my Mum encouraged me to endure the first few weeks." Sure enough, as time passed, and with the exceptional support of her colleagues, Jenny began to feel that she had a better handle on her chosen career.
"Seeing how the children under my care develop, that is the best part of this job," says Jenny with pride.
She never turned back after that. To date, Jenny has accumulated 12 years of teaching experience under her belt and now teaches the K2 children at Carpe Diem She never turned back after that.
"I love my children. When they graduate to primary school, I cry together with them," she shares with a smile.
For young early childhood teachers entering the profession, Jenny has this advice to share.
"The first few months of entering the profession will definitly be tough. But press on! At the end of the year, you will see the difference you have made to the children's development. This is what makes me proud to be an early childhood teacher."
Jenny earned her Diploma in Preschool Education (Teaching) in 2008. She often takes the initiative to research on pedagogical approaches to improve the way she engages with the children. In her line of work, she feels that hands-on experience is very important.
"What you learn from the textbooks may not always reflect the situation in real life," she believes. "We cannot blindly follow the books. In this field, we must learn through experience and continuously upgrade our skills and knowledge."
For example, instead of choosing to reprimand children who are disruptive in class, Jenny devised a sticker reward system to encourage them to follow classroom rules. "I observed that my children love stickers. The reward system motivates them to watch their behaviour in order to earn stickers!"
Early childhood teachers also need to be able to adapt their pedagogical styles to different children's needs.
"I had a child who just migrated from China. He did not speak English at all and there was a tough language barrier. I used visuals to slowly build up his foundation in English," shares Jenny.
Jenny strongly believes in getting to know each child as a unique individual. She then adapts her teaching approaches to be aligned with their personalities and temperaments.
She shared the following memory. "I paired up an extremely shy boy with a buddy who was more outgoing. I also encouraged him to take part in activities like show-and-tell in order to improve his confidence. We all saw how this child's self-confidence and language abilities grew under my care. His Mum was very happy."
Says Madam Valorie Goh, principal of Carpe Diem Young Joy, "Jenny is very responsible, patient, caring, and approachable. She is able to communicate well, understand the children's needs and cultivate their character."
Jenny and Mdm Valorie Goh, principal of Carpe Diem Young Joy
"Patient" is also a word that comes up when parent Madam Debbie Goh describes Jenny, who teaches her six-year-old daughter.
"I find my daughter more well-behaved and sensible this year. I think that has to do with how Teacher Jenny manages their behaviours - in a very patient way. She takes time to explain to them why something is wrong when they misbehave," Debbie says. "She knows the children's interest and plans their activities accordingly. She brings them on excursions where they learn how to identify different leaves and flowers, and how to recycle household items like toilet rolls to make crafts. My daughter loves learning these things."
Jenny is a recipient of the inaugural batch of the Skills Future Study Awards (SFSA) for Early Childhood Sector, and is currently pursuing the Advanced Diploma for Early Childhood Leadership (ADECL) programme at Ngee Ann Polytechnic. She says the Award has given her added motivation and support to pursue a degree programme after she completes ADECL.
"Through this course, we develop skills on how to lead a team," she shares. "I have learnt that there are many different types of leadership styles. I am still searching for a style that would best suit my preschool environment, which has a very 'family' type of culture. I believe, as a team, we want to continue that, and together bring everyone to a higher level of quality."
Jenny and her 'family' at Carpe Diem Young Joy
One of the challenges for early childhood teachers is juggling work with family commitments. Jenny highlights that it is essential to find the right balance between work and family.
"For me, I focus on a plan and get organised through my daily routines. And of course, I have the support of my family, which helps tremendously," she says. "They understand and support my passion and career."