Being a preschool teacher goes beyond taking good care of the little ones. Apart from making the children’s well-being their top priority, preschool teachers also do everything they can to nurture the minds of the preschoolers under their care and ensure that their learning milestones are on the right track.
As the preschoolers come to the end of their preschool journey, one of the most important gifts preschool teachers can impart in their charges is the value of confidence. This is where a combined year-end graduation concert proves to be a great platform for K2 preschoolers to pick up useful skills that will help with their transition to primary school in the year ahead.
And that is what the team of teachers from six MindChamps PreSchool centres – Changi Business Park, Leisure Park Kallang, Paragon, Serangoon, Toa Payoh, ZhongShan Park – have had their focus on for the most part of this year.
Together with award winning director Paulene Smith and experienced dance and musical theatre director Heather McCloud taking the lead, the MindChamps PreSchool team has accomplished what few have even dared to attempt - get over 120 six-year-olds to work together on an hour and a half long musical production.
Fortunately, Paulene and Heather, who have decades of theatrical and performing experience between them, were able to call upon this experience to work towards a successful concert with the preschool teachers where every child has a part to play, a song to sing and a dance to dance - and weave all these perfectly into a once-in-a-lifetime magical experience.
How did they do it?
With quite a bit of planning, dedication and patience, a lot of patience.
Planning for something of this scale had to start very early on, and the team got started in February.
Pre-production for the concert started in earnest in early March, with extensive original video production and allocation of parts, before moving on to centre-level rehearsals and combined mass rehearsals.
Besides the artistic and creative challenges, logistics was also a major issue, as this was the first time six different preschool centres from around Singapore had come together to present a combined K2 graduation concert.
Time was another major challenge, as there was limited time for joint rehearsals and for most of the time, the teachers and children from the six centres had to practice on their own. And when everyone finally comes together, on the spot adjustments had to be made.
Of course, there were also the costumes, the sets and everything else that went into a musical production.
What preschoolers and teachers learn from the experience
Getting kids to work together for something of this scale also has it benefits, as Paulene elaborates, “There's so much they can learn. Any child that's involved in the performing arts learns so many things of great importance. As you can see, they're working together as a team, they have to learn to try and try and try again, they're learning to work with children they don't know, with teachers they don't know. The expectation that we place on our children for this is really high, and the great thing is that they always exceed those expectations.”
K2 is a turning point for a child, and getting involved in putting up a musical extravaganza of such scale will leave a deep impression on them.
Madam Huang Ying, Vice Principal at MindChamps PreSchool Serangoon, who is in charge of the Chinese segment of the concert, re-emphasised how coming together to work on such a big event has its learning points, "For the K2 children from six centres to practice together, they make new friends and learn social skills, how to interact and communicate with new friends and also, teamwork.
"They are familiar with their own preschool centres, from the environment to the friends and the teachers. Then they come into a bigger environment with which they are unfamiliar. This is where they really learn a lot to adapt and get over their uncertainties.
"The children learnt how to coordinate with each other along the way. This is something they can't learn from books and this will help them for the future. They can't learn it from elsewhere but through this year-end musical performance."
But it isn't just the children who learn from this experience, the teachers and staff get a taste of professional theatre from Paulene and Heather as well.
During these combined rehearsals, the teachers and directors also get to bond, exchange ideas and tips, and this provides them with the opportunity to see themselves as part of a bigger picture.
With the various avenues for creative input and shared artistic responsibilities, everyone young and old benefits in terms of personal growth and development.