Apprentice pre-school teacher Melissa Lim, 26, is passionate, confident, and has won the hearts of many of her young students and their parents.

So it was surprising to hear that it was not her original ambition to be a teacher.

Two years ago, she was on her way to developing a career in the media industry.

“My whole life, including my tertiary education, has led up to a career in the media,” says the former advertising account executive, who is now teaching at Brighton Montessori.

From advertising to teaching

Ms Lim has a diploma in mass communication from Ngee Ann Polytechnic and a degree in communication from the SIM-University at Buffalo.

It was only after about a year into her former job that she realised that her passion could possibly lie somewhere else.

“I was very scared when I realised that advertising wasn’t what I wanted to do anymore.

“At 25, I didn’t want to take another wrong step,” she says.

She discussed her next career move with her family and close friends, who thought that that she would flourish in a career as a pre-school teacher.

After all, as they pointed out, she had taught creative writing classes for kids and worked as a storyteller during her university days and had enjoyed these experiences tremendously.

Enlightened, Ms Lim, who later completed a two-week internship at Brighton Montessori, decided to take the plunge into the early childhood education industry.

It was a move that she has not regretted despite the challenges that accompany her job.

Diaper-changing included

“Being a pre-school teacher is not just about playing with cute kids. It’s very practical — we have to change diapers and deal with sick children and vomit,” she says.

Such experiences were an eye-opener during her early teaching days.

“I would ask myself, ‘What could I have done better?’

“But you learn. You learn from your mistakes. The children and parents keep you going,” she says.

She adds that a large dose of patience is necessary to keep one grounded in the job.

“In this line, the payoff is never immediate. If you’re not prepared to see it through the long term, you won’t be able to see the growth you’ve invested in,” she says.

Transforming a quiet little girl

She recalled a five-year-old pupil who was once withdrawn and had little confidence.

“From the girl’s reaction to certain words, I realised she was a child who relished attention and didn’t like it when it was taken away from her verbally or emotionally,” she says.

The usual teaching approach did not work with bringing the girl out of her shell.

“As teachers, we all have a bag of tricks to reach into when things become difficult, but I had never met a girl like her before,” adds Ms Lim.

What helped Ms Lim was the support she received from the senior teachers at Brighton Montessori as well as her lecturers at the Asian International College in Singapore, where she is currently studying for a diploma in early childhood care and education.

“I learnt that I needed to celebrate her successes,” says Ms Lim, explaining that this meant making the girl’s success, like pronouncing words correctly, visible to the people around her.

“Today, this child is a lot more confident and wants to give love to others,” she says.

The girl’s learning abilities were also boosted because of her newfound confidence, adds Ms Lim.

But this triumph only happened because she had a deep partnership with the girl.

“The credit also belongs to the child. If she had not wanted to work with me, she wouldn’t have improved that fast,” she says.

Similar partnerships, including those with her pupils’ parents, keep Ms Lim going.

“The parents respect us as teachers; they never see us as nannies. They see us as partners in shaping their children,” she says.

She recalls a parent once thanked her for taking good care of his child.

“To me, that positive feedback is the best thing I’ve ever heard,” she says.


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