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Q&A with Sunflower Baby House & Preschool Head Teacher, Jean Lim

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What is your background and training? What made you want to become a teacher?

When I finished my A-levels exams and was waiting for the results to be out, my best friend asked me to work part-time alongside her in a childcare centre. On many occasions, she had observed that the children and I started off as strangers, and within a short time, they warmed up to me and we became best friends. She knew that I’d always liked playing and interacting with children, thus working part-time at a childcare centre would be a good choice.

Everyone I knew had the perception that this job is an easy job: just playing with children, singing to them, feeding and bathing them. That perception was mine, too. Nobody told me that I had to literally be like a vigilant octopus with acute senses at all times with the children! Nobody told me about the heavy responsibilities of having to care and answer for each of the children in my class as well.

And that was the start of my career in Early Childhood. I had to learn the hard way and it was tough. I won’t deny that there are frustrations and that it’s a heavy workload. However, I can also say this job fulfils me with many intangible rewards and has helped me grow in many aspects of my life.

What do you love about working at your school in particular?

At Sunflower Baby House & Preschool, I get to work with wonderful colleagues who help each other grow both mentally and emotionally. We work hard and have fun at the same time. Each of my colleagues has a unique role in building the work culture of the school. This makes the working environment fun and challenging at the same time.

The school supports me in so many ways, especially when I want to further my studies. The school is open to negotiate, accommodate and support me in any way it can to help me. I love the diversity of the people in the school. There are parents and children from a wide variety of countries and cultures, and I’ve gained a lot of insights and knowledge from all of them.

The relationships and communication I have with parents is very open. This supports the knowledge that I’ve gained on the job, and shows the benefits of parents and teachers working hand-in-hand together to give the children the best learning environment and experiences.

What are some important lessons you’ve learned from your students?

The best “teachers” I have throughout my career as an Early childhood educator, apart from my lecturers and professors in university, are the children. The younger toddlers taught me love and trust. Hugs and cuddles are a must whenever I see them. The toddlers will look at me earnestly and from them, I have learned that every move, frown, cry and laughter means a whole lot of trust and love between us.

From my Kindergarten 2 children, I have learned to make mistakes, owning up to my mistakes, gaining knowledge and experience from one another, willingness to learn a whole new experience and patience. Each day, I learn something new from them. From the names of the different Pokemon characters or the latest toys, to how to draw the drawings in their way, what they saw during their holidays, what they’ve learned from their parents, etc.

Every day there is something new to learn from them and they willingly share their knowledge with me. My kindergarten children have also learnt how to read and adapt to me. We can have “crazy” fun when we play, and we can also be extremely focused when we learn the curriculum.

What is your take on ‘play-based learning’?

From Sunflower’s pedagogy of using the Multiple Intelligences approach, I have also realised there are many ways for children to learn, and there are many ways to transfer the knowledge to them. It still amazes that from a simple song like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, the Kindergarten 2 children gained a whole range of knowledge and I, in turn, did from them: pronunciation and reading of the lyrics, comprehension of the lyrics and rhythm and pace of the song are just a few examples.

What is your favourite activity to do with your students?

The children changed the lyrics to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to what they wanted to sing, wrote it down for me and then even recalled different songs that have the same tune. The children extended their knowledge on their own using their curious and inquisitive nature. Some of them even sang and danced to the song with a partner and they invented a game, too.

Being a teacher has always been a tough, however, seeing the things I learn in return gives me the motivation to work harder on this partnership in learning I have with the children at Sunflower.

What is one fun fact about you?

I am a teacher who loves to play when it is playtime. I become one of the children in my class and the children will grab this opportunity to joke and play with me. The children are all gamed up to try new things with me too. The children and I are always ready to explore new games and we always have fun laughing, squealing and even squabbling during play time.

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