Vivian Lim – Promising Early Years Educator Award 2023

Building strong bonds for a child’s holistic development

Vivian Lim, English Teacher from Little Skool-House At-Marina-Boulevard and winner of ECDA’s Promising Early Years Educator Award.

When a child joined her class and required more time to settle in, Vivian Lim, English Teacher from Little Skool-House At-Marina-Boulevard, immediately reached out to the child’s parents to find out about his needs, likes and ‘safety object’ he could hold on to for security in a new environment. She then curated customised experiences that suited the child’s interests to help him ease into his new environment. The result – the child has adapted well and now has a tight-knit relationship with her.

Building strong bonds as primary caregiver

Vivian’s dedication to creating a secure environment for children to engage with her on their own terms strengthens their trust and bond with her.

“When a new child joins the class, we always have one primary caregiver for the child, depending on the child’s main language. From there, we build relationships with the child through one on one interaction. We will be the first one to greet the child when he enters, verbalise what we are doing in class to him and slowly when we have built a relationship with the child, we introduce the child’s likes and dislikes to other children and teachers for them to build that relationship,” she said.

Upon building rapport, the real work begins.

“We are not babysitters, we teach children routines. There are many aspects of learning when it comes to routines, and routines help build their confidence,” Vivian added.

Tailoring learning experiences to suit different learning styles

When children first start school, Vivian observes how they explore the environment; whether they are drawn to books or sensorial items. After taking into account their different learning styles – be it visual, auditory or sensorial – she plans activities for each child based on their interests.

Vivian engaging children in sand play, inviting them to communicate about textures.

“In our relationships-based curriculum, we focus a lot on exploration and learning experiences. For sand play exploration, I bring in different tools and introduce different concepts to children with different learning needs. For non-verbal children, I introduce the names of tools. For the more advanced children, I ask questions to spur critical thinking such as, ‘Can this pail hold as much sand as the other pail?’ If a child does not like sensorial experiences, my objective for him or her would be to start exploring sand using a paintbrush or one finger,” said Vivian.

Navigating changes with classroom materials and classmates

When the toddlers were newly promoted to Nursery One, there were several areas that needed to be worked on like toilet training and weaning them off their milk bottles. Using storybooks, the children were introduced to characters that navigated these changes and they consequently learnt to adapt and be independent.

Vivian also employed peer training and encouraged children to try toilet training as some children were already practising toilet training at home. Vivian helped the children adapt to toilet training by getting all the children to practise the steps of getting on and off a toilet so the change would not be so daunting.

Respecting children’s voices to foster autonomy

Vivian is a big believer in giving children the autonomy to decide what they want to do, within reason. “If a child has to change diapers but is not ready to let go of playtime, I will give the child a choice, would you like to change first and come back to play or do you want five more minutes?”

Besides negotiating with them, Vivian also empowers children to tell their own story. Vivian prods children to explain the thinking behind their artwork at the end of each year and includes a description of what their artwork is about to give them a voice.

Empowering children to voice their thoughts and make their own decisions bolsters their confidence.

Learning that goes beyond developmental milestones

Instead of telling children to say “please” and “thank you”, Vivian models these phrases with the Chinese Teacher in her class. Instead of pressuring children to share, she encourages her class to practise turn taking. If a child refuses to part with their item, the other child learns to respect the will of that child and wait for his turn.

Patience, consideration and good manners are lessons that cannot be taught from a textbook. Vivian’s focus on these critical values enables her to instil in these children lessons of good manners and kindness that will outlast their time in any classroom.

Modelling a lifelong love for learning

Besides modelling key values, Vivian inspires a love of learning in her children by modelling it herself. Vivian keeps up with the latest research by reading articles on sites like National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). She has a special interest in articles on the different milestones children should achieve at different months and what to anticipate at a certain age. This helps her prepare to challenge their skills and develop them further, gauge their progress towards milestones and how she can help them get there.