Tell us about yourself.
When I introduce myself to people, I like to say that I am a preschool teacher by profession, and an "entertainer" by passion. I enjoy making people laugh and have big dreams to eventually start an utopian preschool. I don't know how close my dream would be to the future reality, but I won’t stop dreaming and striving for it. But of course, I'm still at the start of my journey, and my current focus is to make sure that I become a more intentional and reflective teacher.
Before enrolling at SUSS, I've had the privilege of doing preschool relief work (2012-2015) and working full-time for an anchor operator for two years (2015-2017). While enrolled at SUSS, I was a student-teacher in three preschools as part of SUSS' practicum and teaching practice (2017-2020). I am now working full-time as a preschool teacher.
Why did you decide to pursue your career?
I had always known from a young age that my calling was to be a teacher. When I was 17, I realised that I wanted to work with children in their pre-schooling years. At 18, I decided that I wanted to run my own preschool.
The reason? It is these early years which are the most formative for any person; when the foundations for his or her life are laid. During this period, every sight, sound and experience - forming the cornerstone memories that will determine their worldview - is experienced with fresh eyes. I realised that my passion was to work with children during this crucial period of their lives.
I started a service learning initiative with a friend during my time at SUSS. Called Hearty Kids, it is a collaboration between People's Association and SUSS that focuses on the social and emotional development of pre-schoolers in the Tampines area.
In 2019, Hearty Kids organised its first camp for two preschools - Darul Ghufran Mosque Kindergarten and PCF Sparkletots at Tampines Central Blk 856. The day camp lasted four days, running two hours on the first three days and three hours on the last. The children from both schools were mixed and split into eight different groups. They played games, learnt more about themselves, their emotions and about collaborating with others. Our team applied what we had learnt at the camp, and this really impressed the teachers who were present. Hearty Kids looks forward to organising more camps like these when conditions permit.
Share some highlights from your work.
I'm very proud of the achievements of the children I work with - I count their success stories and milestones achieved, as my own. In recent times, there was a child I worked with who grew the confidence to rely less on wearing diapers. The child came to me and told me, proudly: "Teacher Sam, I'm not wearing diapers anymore, you know?" Another time, it took one month for a girl to conquer her fear of having her hair shampooed. After water play, instead of screaming and crying at the thought of lathering up her hair, she came to me for help to do it. That was gratifying. There are so many more stories. I wish I could share all of them with you!
What goals are you working towards?
This is a really fun question to answer. I'd like to build a preschool with a very positive social moral climate - where the team of teachers is a set of reflective, supportive and happy people. I love the emergent curriculum and I value constructivism a lot, so that would probably be my pedagogy. I'd like my preschool to be one for the community, with strong parent-teacher partnerships. That's the dream - we'll see how things work out in the next ten years or more.
How has your SUSS experience shaped you and helped you pursue your passion?
The core modules were extremely enriching and useful. One of my very first Early Childhood Education (ECE) module in SUSS covered the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). This drove home the importance of early childhood care and education. The concepts learnt thereafter in the course have shaped my beliefs on how early childhood education should be pursued.
Initially, I had entered SUSS thinking that the modules would be harder. But it is not just harder, it also offers a different perspective to how early childhood education should be. At the same time, we had the opportunity to apply what we had learnt immediately in our classes.
My overseas experience to understand more about preschools in Beijing with my practicum supervisor was also eye-opening; I had a glimpse into their teacher leadership style and why they have never thought of leaving their preschools (compared to Singapore’s high preschool educator turnover).
If not for the service learning opportunity, I might not have stepped out of my comfort zone to set up Hearty Kids with my co-founder. Through this journey, it has taught us to lead, make changes and empower our young children.