When Ms Denise Tham, in her early 30s, started working as a pre-school teacher’s assistant 13 years ago, it was because she wanted to fund her degree programme in interior design.
But as she spent time with the children, she found that they gave her much more joy than expected. So, after graduating with an honours degree in interior design, Ms Tham decided to change track and pursue a career in early childhood education.
She has not looked back since — obtaining first a Diploma in Early Childhood Care and Education - Teaching in 2013, followed by an Advanced Diploma in Early Childhood Leadership in 2018.
Ms Tham rose through the ranks over the years and eventually took on her current role as principal of MY WorldPreschool @ Matilda Court this year. She oversees the school’s operations and supports her staff in ensuring the safety of the children.
Ms Tham says: “Interacting with the children, seeing their smiles and watching them grow continues to be something that I look forward to every single day. It is something that gives me a sense of accomplishment even after 13 years in the sector.”
Here, she gives us a glimpse of life in a pre-school during a pandemic.
Q: How has your pre-school adapted to the pandemic?
Before Covid-19, lessons were conducted through group learning. Now we have to observe safe distancing, so classroom learning is limited to groups of less than 10 children.
In the classrooms, children are now given their own spaces which are clearly demarcated on the floors and tables. For some of the older children, we are using foldable laptop tables, which we can move around to ensure safe distancing while working on different classroom activities.
Q: Has the pandemic changed the focus of school lessons?
The teachers conducted lessons about Covid-19 to help children understand the pandemic and how they can play a part in exercising social responsibility. We also constantly explain to them why there is a need to keep a safe distance from their classmates from other groups, or why they are unable to share toys and learning materials. Even so, the children are still encouraged to care for one another in different ways.
Nurturing character development in our children is most important to us, thus we will not compromise on that.
Q: How do you address parents’ concerns during this time?
Some parents are concerned that they have fewer opportunities to talk to the teachers about their children’s learning progress.
To address this, we are currently working on documenting snippets of the children’s learning and achievements, and uploading them onto our parent’s portal for parents to view and celebrate their children’s achievements with us.
We also keep up parent teacher meetings and other communications through video conferencing platforms.