Ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.

Friday, 1 November 2013

When I first arrived in Singapore from Indonesia at the age of eight, I could not understand, read, write or speak English. I was familiar with everyday terms such as Good Morning, Thank you and Good Bye - but that was what my grasp of the English Language is limited to. Not only did I have to adapt to an entirely new environment, I had to also go to school practically armed with zero communications skills. To an eight year old, it was a pretty tough time, especially since I had to sit for a series of test papers to determine whether I could go to a class with kids of my own age, or start from Primary 1 all over again.

I was enrolled at Telok Kurau Girls', and thankfully, I had a wonderful English teacher. In just a space of 2 months, I went from not being able to understand English - to speaking full sentences in English, and not getting enough of Enid Blyton. Up till today, I attribute my love for the language to Mrs Molly Tan, who borrowed Ladybird books for me, and made me underline words which I am unfamiliar with as I was introduced to the intricacies of the English language. She patiently taught me how to 'read' a sentence so as to figure out the meaning of a word, and made me realise how so incredibly versatile the English language is.

She also made me understand how influential a teacher can be. She wanted to see me master the language, and adapted her methods according to what she believed suited me. She was passionate about teaching because she wanted to see her students succeed.

Caden started playgroup last March, just after he turned two. We visited several schools, but decided on his preschool based on the fact that when we spoke to the principal, she did not promise us that they can turn Caden into a scholar or a candidate for MENSA, the way the others seemed to do. All she said was:

"Every child is different, and our teachers will be there to guide them to realize their full potential."

That sealed the deal for us, because we respect the fact that our son is an individual with his own personality, characteristics and traits.

Back then, I was also concerned that he hasn't started talking. The only thing which made me hold back on seeking professional advice was that he was responsive to directions, and he showed understanding when spoken to. In addition to that, he also had an aversion to any dirt or mess, and was so particular about it so much so that he will not eat another bite should a stray grain of rice fall on his clothes, until it's removed. Stickers, plasters and bandages were a total write off, and it was especially challenging when he had to have a cut or scrape covered to heal. I communicated these habits to his teacher when we first had an orientation session prior to full fledged school days so that she may understand him better, but I did not expect her to try to make an effort to remedy it.

One day, he came home from school, and triumphantly held out his arms which had 2 stars drawn on it with a pen.

"Mehmee... STARS! Me good boy!" and refused to let me wash it off for the rest of the day. Incidentally, that was also the first full sentence which he spoke, and after I recovered from the shock - proceeded to ask him who gave him the stars. He grinned, and said: "Tee-chuh Sehwa"

I was so proud of my little boy, and I understood why Teacher Sarah chose to draw the stars on him. It was the first step to helping him understand that any 'dirt' or objects on his skin is perfectly fine, non permanent, and can be washed away. It was brilliant!

He proceeded to start communicating with us in words rather than gestures. A few words became a sentence, and in a month, he was chattering non-stop. He sings songs, counts objects, and identifies shapes. He tells us exactly what he wants and bosses us around. He greets me Good Morning, and kisses me good night. I ask him if he likes school, and answers with a resounding YEAH!

Caden looks forward to school daily, perhaps because he is in an environment whereby his teachers put in a lot of effort in helping him and his peers develop. There are activities, mini excursions, projects and lessons to help them learn social skills, explore and expand their minds. To me, his teachers are doing a wonderful job in helping him find himself, and not merely preparing him for higher education. That lays the foundation in learning - we have to want to learn in order for us to learn.

Teaching is an often thankless job, and as parents, we sometimes forget to attribute our kids' achievements to their teachers, but can be so quick to blame them when the kids aren't performing to certain expectations. Teaching is also more than just a job - it takes passion, time, energy and love to attempt to guide curious young minds, still exploring the world. Its' only reward, often, is of a personal nature. It's the joy in seeing a child proudly show you what they were not previously able to do. It's music to the ears when they start singing nursery rhymes without help. It's feeling loved and appreciated as they greet you with excited smiles and give you heartfelt hugs.

It's a beautiful thing when a career and a passion come together.


When I first saw this video, I was left, literally - quite speechless. I realised that being a working mum, I am totally guilty of leaving the task of refining his social skills to his teachers. While children learn a lot from their parents, their educators are the first ones who are tasked to teach them how to apply what they've learnt in a social environment. It begins with them.

This post is written in support of "It Began With You", a preschool appreciation campaign brought to you by NTUC First Campus (NFC). It also aims to encourage those who feel that they want to and can make a difference in a child's life through teaching to fulfil their aspirations.

NFC was established in 1970 in Singapore, and manages My First Skool, The Little Skool-House International and The Caterpillar's Cove. With 120 centres islandwide, NTUC First Campus' social mission is to ensure that every child, regardless of social or economic background, can receive quality and affordable early childhood care and education. It also provides a strong support network and career advancement opportunities for its staff. Both new and current teachers can develop their knowledge and skills in tailored training programs, as well as learn the best practices in regular meetings and forums.

Are you confident that you can understand a child well?
Find out if YOU have what it takes to be a pre-school teacher here (via Facebook) or here (access via mobile)

Please click image to direct you to the challenge page on Facebook

By participating in the quiz, you will also stand to win $50 CapitaMall vouchers weekly or a Travel Package worth $1500 in a Grand Lucky Draw!

Step forward and begin your career path with NFC. To find out more about NFC careers and positions available, visit itbeganwithyou.com or the NFC Facebook page. If you love children and believe you can make a difference in their learning journeys, please send them your CV today.


Disclaimer: This community awareness advertorial post is brought to you by NTUC First Campus and MummyMoo. All accounts, opinions and appreciation for my past teachers as well as Caden's teachers now are heartfelt, and truly my own.

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