Tell us about yourself.
My name is Debbie. I'm turning 25 this year and I enjoy reading and watching movies during my free time.
Why did you decide to pursue your career?
Before enrolling at SUSS, I worked for two years as a preschool teacher. I enjoyed my time in the classroom, but was slowly growing disillusioned with what I was doing. I was unsure how to balance two main goals: Cultivating an interest and excitement for learning in the children, and meeting the requirements of the curriculum, school and parents.
To elaborate, I enjoyed witnessing the children being inquisitive and trying to discover and figure things out, and their sheer excitement and joy upon succeeding. However, I would often find myself brushing off some of their questions or resorting to spoon-feeding them the answers, so as to continue with the lesson plan for the day. There was an apparent theory-practice gap and I struggled to apply what I had learnt in school to my practice as a teacher.
This was my impetus to enrol in SUSS - to try to reconcile the theory and practice of early childhood education.
When I learnt about a volunteering opportunity to work with children living in rental flats, I decided to try it out for my service learning (at SUSS). At the time, I did not know much about public rental housing and the families who lived there, and thought it would be a good learning opportunity.
Please share some takeaways from your work.
I remember feeling particularly impacted by the experience working with a certain nine-year-old boy. He got distracted easily, was infamous for being hyperactive and would shout or run around randomly. I dreaded having him in my group initially as I was sure he would distract the others and disrupt the session. However, as the weeks passed and I had the opportunity to observe him, and had casual conversations with him, I realised he was just like any other boy who needed attention and friends. He eventually opened up about the difficulties he had faced interacting with teachers and friends in school. I also learnt that even though he may have appeared nonchalant and confident, he was worried how others viewed him because of a skin condition he had. The more he opened up, the more I sympathised with him. From this, I learnt to reserve judgement on people I have not had the chance to get to know, and to see things from their perspective.
During my service learning experience working with families living in rental flats, I was struck by the selflessness of the community, many of whom showed care and concern for their neighbours. Several of our previous student beneficiaries had also signed up as volunteers and continued to support the younger children in the programme.
What goals are you working towards?
As a preschool teacher, I want to be knowledgeable and effective in my practice, to be a better advocate for early childhood education.
One way the system can be improved is for it to move away from standardised pedagogy and assessment. It may be a challenge to convince practitioners to shift away from the established ways of doing things.
My hope is for schools to ultimately move away from a centralised, prescribed curriculum, and towards a system which prioritises autonomy and the child’s interest. This will make the process of learning more meaningful.
How has your SUSS experience shaped you and helped you pursue your passion?
I appreciated the fact that practicum gelled nicely with modules, in terms of scheduling. This allowed me to meaningfully apply what I had learnt, with the option to consult my professors and lecturers at any time.
Service learning was a key part of my SUSS experience and I had the privilege to work with children living in rental housing blocks by engaging them in bi-weekly reading sessions.
Through regular interactions with the children, I was able to apply what I had learnt about effective communication, and build meaningful relationships with them and their families. Being able to spend time with them offered a much-needed respite from my school assignments, and valuable perspective on the important things in life.
I find myself graduating from SUSS with more questions than answers. This is a good thing which I am grateful for. It is the point of life-long learning – staying inquisitive and hungry to learn more, and always improving oneself.