The Three Keys to Early Childhood Education
Fun activities, patience and communication with parents are key to helping children learn, says Mrs Sabrina Lim, a senior teacher at Shalom Kindergarten in Pasir Ris with three decades of early childhood education under her belt.
Mrs Sabrina Lim, Senior Teacher, Shalom Kindergarten
After 30 years as a pre-school teacher, Mrs Sabrina Lim has three key pieces of advice for those just starting out in the profession: keep activities for the children fun, communicate often with the children’s parents and, above all, have patience.
“Kids just want to have fun. That’s how they learn. As a pre-school teacher, you must be fun-loving and the activities you come up with must be fun. You can’t let the children climb all over you, but there must be a sense of play in your learning activities,” said Mrs Lim, who is a senior teacher at Shalom Kindergarten in Pasir Ris.
As for the importance of patience and communication with the children’s parents, the veteran early childhood educator pointed to a formative experience with one of the children under her charge. For some reason, the child was disruptive in class and would often hit his classmates.
“After I spoke often with his parents, they shared with me some difficulties that they were going through as a family, and this could have affected the child’s behaviour. After hearing from them, I told myself that, even if the child’s behaviour is challenging, I must try my best. I gave him lots of hugs and assurance in class, and was firm when I needed to be. After a year, he changed so much,” Mrs Lim said.
“I feel very happy that I didn’t give up on him,” she added.
While Mrs Lim views her work with children as a calling, she almost did not join the profession at all. “I wanted to be a teacher from a very young age, but due to certain circumstances, I ended up doing administrative work as a clinic nurse for a while,” she said.
“It was only after one of my friends suggested that I try early childhood teaching that I thought seriously about it. I was a bit hesitant at first because I knew that, with childcare, you have to do a lot more than just teach. Still, I have always liked kids, so I thought I would give it a try,” she explained.
Even today, she has fond memories of her first few cohorts of pre-school children. One of them, a four-year-old girl named Clarice, moved her so much that she even gave the first of her two daughters the same name.
“I was only 21 years old when I taught Clarice. She was a very smart and good child, and she memorised my date of birth, home number, all these details about me. That meant a lot to me because I was still new at early childhood at the time, and she gave me the confidence that I was doing something right,” she said.
Mrs Lim recently reconnected with Clarice through the social media platform Facebook. Her former student had become a mother of two, and invited her to visit during Chinese New Year.
Mrs Lim added that her three decades as a pre-school teacher has convinced her of the impact that early childhood educators have on children’s lives. “Children are like little pieces of white paper, and what you add to them matters. If you add positive things, they are more likely to grow up to be caring,”she said.
Mrs Lim noted that early childhood education has changed in many ways since she joined the profession. Children are savvier now and more likely to question their teachers in class.
On the other hand, pre-school teachers now have access to a larger variety of resources, including the Internet. At Shalom Kindergarten, Mrs Lim and the other teachers often search online for activities, such as arts and crafts, that they can use in their lessons.
“We work as a team and give each other ideas. Nobody is perfect in teaching, and by helping one another, we also help the children,” Mrs Lim said.
She noted, however, that the most important tenet for pre-school teachers has not changed in the past three decades: to love and nurture the children. Parents with children under her care affirmed her winning ways with them.
Ms Janani Harihar said that her three-year-old daughter, Aditi, who is in Nursery 2 at Shalom Kindergarten, has blossomed under Mrs Lim’s care.
“Aditi used to speak in one or two words and broken sentences before she joined Shalom. Now, with Mrs Lim as her teacher, she has started to talk a lot. She can express herself and tell me what she did in school and what she ate. Mrs Lim has really made a difference in my child’s life,” she said.
She added: “In the past, my daughter would also refuse to take medicine when she had a cough or cold. I tried so many times and it was always a struggle. When Mrs Lim found out, she asked me to let her try, and the problem stopped after that. Aditi will make a small fuss, but she will take the medicine.”
Ms Valarie Chan said that Mrs Lim is the reason her five-year-old son Valdern looks forward to attending his Kindergarten 2 classes. “She showers attention on the children and has a wonderful personality.”
Mrs Lim said that she enjoys working with parents. “I like to get feedback from parents on how to better help each child. As a teacher, you must be able to work well with the children’s family and parents,” she said.
She added that the early childhood profession still gives her joy. “When you first get a group of kids they can be a bit ‘blur’, but as you teach and guide them, you can see great changes in them. That makes me very happy and gives me a great sense of achievement,” she said.
She elaborated: “People sometimes ask me why I still want to be a teacher after 30 years. But as long as I have the energy, I feel that I must continue to teach and give my best to the children. I don’t need them to remember me. As long as I have done something for the child and for his or her family – that is good enough.”
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