Loving Letters in the Mail
An early childhood teacher's creative ideas give pre-schoolers the opportunity to learn valuable life skills, while connecting with their families in a personal and thoughtful way.
One day in April, Suman Ann Thomas' 5 year old daughter ran to her excitedly, proudly announcing that something had arrived in the mail. Mrs Thomas opened her letter box - and there inside was a heart-shaped Mothers' Day Card for her, with the message: "You're the best mum".
To Mrs Thomas' surprise, the card had come in an envelope, stamped and delivered to her doorstep. Her daughter's teacher at Bethesda Serangoon Church Sunbeam Kindergarten, Mrs Linda Lim, had guided the children in making the cards, placing the cards into envelopes, writing their own home addresses, affixing stamps onto the envelops and finally mailing them.
The children discussing their hand-made post boxes and letters with Linda. This is part of the children's Innovating Guidance Project on stamps, post offices and letter-writing.
The activity was part of a series of philatelic-themed activities aimed at teaching the kindergarten's children about the world of stamps, post offices and letter-writing. Jointly developed by Linda and Mrs Stella Lee, the Principal of the Kindergarten, the series is part of the Early Childhood Development Agency's (ECDA) Innovation Grant Project, which encourages pre-schools to come up with creative ways to facilitate learning and teaching.
The children learning about snails with Linda. Through themed activities, the children can carry out in-depth investigation of certain topics. This particular session was themed "Snails".
Linda shared that the activities not only impart life skills, but also allow the children to practice their language, numeracy and social skills. In embarking on themed activities, the children can carry out an in-depth investigation of a certain topic. In doing so, they cover multiple learning and developmental domains.
"This way, children become engaged, and can learn more effectively", she added.
"Children become engaged and can learn more effectively" ~ Mrs Linda Lim
Developing creative learning activities are all in a day's work for Linda, who first became an early childhood teacher three decades ago. Since the 80s, she has seen the approach to teaching young children evolve dramatically.
"It was a lot of rote-learning, a lot of worksheets, and there wasn't much hands-on learning back then," she said.
Linda quit after two years and switched sectors. She then had two children, and later followed her husband on an overseas posting. After they returned to Singapore about a decade ago, Linda re-joined the early childhood sector.
"I think it's in my DNA to teach young children," she said with a laugh.
Her principal, Mrs Lee, later nominated Linda to be part of the inaugural batch of early childhood teachers in the Professional Development Programme (PDP). These early childhood teachers were officially appointed by ECDA on May 4, 2016. The programme, an initiative under the national SkillsFuture movement, aims to help early childhood professionals take on larger roles in their organisations. They will receive a total of S$12,000 in cash awards when they meet the programme milestones.
Linda was appointed as one of the inagural batch of early childhood teachers in the Professional Development Programme (PDP), in an official ceremony held by ECDA. The ceremony was graced by Minister for Social and Family Development, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin.
"As the way parents raise their children evolves, early childhood teachers need to keep up to speed with societal demands. By developing ourselves professionally, we contribute to raising the level of professionalism in the early childhood sector", said Linda.
She added, "Educators and professionals who have stayed in this field for many years want to see changes in the quality of teaching and how pre-school teachers are being perceived. Pre-school teachers are not babysitters and nannies. They help shape our young children's minds and grow them holistically.
"And I think parents also appreciate if teachers embark on continuing professional development. They now see early childhood teachers as professionals, committed to providing every child with a good start in life."
Indeed, Mrs Loh Yuexia, mother of two children who are both attending Sunbeam, is appreciative of Linda's professionalism, and the innovative curriculum. She first met Linda back in 2013, when her older son transferred to Sunbeam from another nursery.
Linda's creative ways that help her son understand concepts and strengthen his motor skills were refreshing, Mrs Loh recalled. Not only was Linda caring and dedicated - she also made sure that parents were actively engaged in their children's development.
For example, earlier this year, Mrs Loh was invited to her daughter's class to demonstrate how stamps can be removed from envelopes. The hands-on and interactive experiences make learning more fun and engaging for the children. They also help the children pick up social skills.
Said Mrs Loh, "Mrs Lim (Linda) develops the children step-by-step and ensures a firm foundation for their emotional well-being. She echoes what I believe education is all about -- kindness. I'm glad to find this like-minded partner in education."
Not only do parents appreciate Linda's approach, other teachers at the kindergarten also find her a capable colleague, said Mrs Lee, Principal of the Kindergarten.
Linda with her supportive Principal, Mrs Stella Lee
Linda sees that there's still much to be done in the early childhood sector and that she can contribute to it. She constantly reaches out to the children, their parents and her colleagues. She's made for this profession," Mrs Lee said.
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