Adapting to the changing interests of children
Teo Ming Ai promotes the integration of children’s interests with classroom learning. As a Lead Teacher, she has also guided many teachers at her centre. For her contributions to the early childhood education sector, Ming Ai was conferred the Promising Early Childhood Educarer award by the Early Childhood Development Agency in 2021.
Teo Ming Ai, Lead Teacher of My First Skool (Block 997 Buangkok Crescent), received the Promising Early Childhood Educarer award by the Early Childhood Development Agency in 2021.
Building a positive and respectful environment to learn means having to go along with the children’s interests at times. This has been the philosophy of Teo Ming Ai, Lead Teacher of My First Skool (MFS) at Block 997 Buangkok Crescent.
Since joining MFS in 2018, she has actively contributed to the centre’s curriculum by creating learning materials that cater to different age groups’ developmental needs and current interests, such as preparing different spoon sizes for children at different developmental stages for a simple fine motor activity on scooping.
“I believe that we play an important role in setting the foundation of children’s learning and development of lifelong skills. As toddlers are still growing at different paces, observations are crucial in ensuring that developmentally-appropriate activities are planned for them. I also believe that respecting children’s interests and preferences helps in building their sense of agency and well-being,” said Ming Ai, who currently teaches Nursery 1 children at her centre.
In January this year, Ming Ai noticed that her students were interested in dinosaurs, animals and insects. Tapping on that, she created a Dinosaur Cafe in the dramatic centre and sourced for dinosaur puzzles, which engaged more students in these classroom activities.
During a nature walk, Ming Ai noticed that the children were interested in the different colours within the vicinity of the school. She then created colour sticks for the children to match and identify with these colours in the neighbourhood in the subsequent nature walk experiences.
“Ming Ai values children’s interests and ideas by providing a warm and inviting environment for them to explore and make choices. She carries out regular observations of her children and plans for learning experiences that cater to the current interests of the children,” said Pearlyn Tan, Executive Principal of MFS at Block 997 Buangkok Crescent.
Teo Ming Ai, Lead Teacher of My First Skool (Block 997 Buangkok Crescent), reading a book to the children.
Easing transition fears
Knowing that transitions can be frightening for many children, Ming Ai took extra steps to put the children at ease.
When the Circuit Breaker took place in 2020, all schools were closed. However, Ming Ai quickly got her team to pre-record lessons which the children could view from home. Despite the inability to have physical excursions, she also tried her best to still conduct them virtually. The continuance of the usual activities that the children would usually have in school eased them during the lockdown at home. When the children returned to school, most of them experienced little separation anxiety.
Another stressful change for many children is when they progress to a new class level. To smoothen the process, Ming Ai informs the new class teachers of each child’s characteristics and parents’ concerns for follow up. This enables the new teachers to be more prepared when taking over the children.The children were also able to experience less separation anxiety and adapted faster to their new teachers and environment.
Ming Ai provides regular updates on the parent portal, to allow parents to track the progress of their child in school, and follow up on their development back at home. To ensure that learning continues with the child’s parents at home, she plans take home activities for the children every term. Ming Ai’s efforts enabled a smooth transition for the children between home and school, and she received a parent satisfaction survey score of 95.8 per cent in 2020.
“Young preschoolers who attend school for the first time often display anxiety and take time in transiting to a new environment. At the same time, parents of these children are also going through a similar process. Therefore, as the children’s first teacher outside of home, I believe in building secure and positive relationships with them as they transit from home to a school environment,” said Ming Ai. “This is important as building trusting relationships with young children gives them the confidence to explore and express themselves comfortably as they construct new knowledge.”
“I believe that we play an important role in setting the foundation of children’s learning and development of lifelong skills. As toddlers are still growing at different paces, observations are crucial in ensuring that developmentally-appropriate activities are planned for them.”
– Teo Ming Ai
My First Skool (Block 997 Buangkok Crescent)
Guiding teachers on effective communication
As a Lead Teacher, Ming Ai models and guides her team of teachers at the centre.
In addition to sharing methods to prepare for lessons and materials, Ming Ai also guides teachers on how to communicate effectively and demonstrate professional behaviour when working with families of different cultures, values and beliefs.
“I share strategies with the teachers and provide feedback to support them in building a strong and responsive relationship with the families. We discussed the management of challenging parents and provided suggestions and feedback for one another. This provided support for the teachers as most of our new teachers faced challenges in managing parents’ feedback and expectations,” said Ming Ai.
Together, Ming Ai and her team of teachers attained strong parent satisfaction survey results in 2019 and 2020.
“As part of the core team member in the centre, Ming Ai takes an active role in supporting the centre leaders in the reviewing of centre practices and execution of action plans to meet our strategic direction,” said Pearlyn. “She is an outspoken and critical leader who provides genuine feedback and proposes realistic actions to address current concerns.”
For her detailed observation of the children’s needs and interests and her guidance of teachers at the centre, which helped the team win the hearts of parents, Teo Ming Ai was conferred the Promising Early Childhood Educarer award by the Early Childhood Development Agency in 2021.