In this series of chats with our staff, we get up close and personal. They share about things like their favourite drinks, to their experiences and motivations at work.
Hi, could you introduce yourself?
I’m Xavier Cheh, I’m 27 this year, and I’m an English Preschool Teacher at Pasir Ris 21 Centre.
What did you study before you started your career?
I studied Game Design in Temasek Polytechnic which was my 7th choice, my original few choices were teaching-related so I was sad that I wasn’t able to get into the courses that I initially wanted. But luckily after studying for 1 year, I managed to change my diploma to Early Childhood with the help of my course manager.
Why did you decide to join the preschool sector?
It actually an honest mistake. I thought early childhood would put me on the path of teaching primary school kids. Through prior experience teaching kids in student care, I found out that I like teaching kids of that age and decided to pursue a career in this. It was only after changing my course to Early Childhood that I realised the course is only for Preschool level. That got me worried as I had no relevant experience in teaching preschool kids. I started reaching out to various childcare centres to let me do an internship there to gain experience and I was relieved when a childcare got back to me and was willing to accept me, a male teacher with no experience!
Why did you decide to join PPS?
I first knew about PPS from my networks within the preschool industry - I heard many good reviews about PPS. That made me lean towards joining PPS as I decided it was also time to move on to another preschool to expand my teaching experience and knowledge. When I first visited the Centre, I observed how the staff interacted with each other. They treated each other with kindness and mutual support. It gave me good vibes and they also made me feel comfortable and welcomed there.
Why do you like to work here at PPS?
The people that I work with are the main reason why I enjoy working here. I feel so at home whenever I am at work. Finding a good workplace with a good culture isn’t easy and it does affect one’s mood and productivity. I enjoy the times when we bond over lunch and exchange teaching tips. We also spend time with each other outside of work so it feels more relaxing and not so professional, like 'I only work with you' you know. In fact, we drag each other to try new things like skating, cycling, escape room and even buffets!
I also get to see some of my students from my previous centre and it excites me to be able to continue guiding and teaching them throughout their preschool years.
I feel so at home whenever I am at work. Finding a good workplace with a good culture isn’t easy and it does affect one’s mood and productivity. Everyone here is very supportive of each other.
How would you describe your culture at work? Everyone is very supportive of each other. For instance, when someone pitches an idea, it doesn’t get shot down and everyone comes together to help out. Even when I suggest ideas to the management team on improvements for lessons, they are supportive and willing to listen and make changes. Some examples would be them supporting me when I organised a class camp, or when I wanted to take class photos. My colleagues even provided me with the equipment and offered tips on how to take better pictures. Do people see you any differently at work since you are the only male teacher around?
Being a male teacher, dealing with parents is a big challenge for me and I’m not always comfortable speaking with them. Earlier on in my career, I would get dirty looks from parents, who may say things like “you shouldn’t be here”, or “are you not worried having him here?” That was discouraging initially and I was a bit traumatised. Who doesn’t get affected by this type of talk? It made me feel like I did not belong here and like I was the thorn among the roses. Gradually, it started to get better as the parents got to know me better and changed their perceptions - I even managed to develop good relationships with them and they became more accepting of me teaching their kids. Even right now, I still fear that new parents feel disgusted by me. I don’t feel as horrible as last time, but I still feel the judgment sometimes when they look at me.
I still feel the judgment [from parents] sometimes when they look at me...I try not to let their views affect me and in turn affect the way I do things. As long as the children go back and have good things to share about their experiences, it shows the parents my positive impact on the kids.
How do you overcome the challenges regarding parents?
The way I overcome it is by proving myself. I try not to let their views affect me and in turn affect the way I do things. As long as the children go back and have good things to share about their experiences, it shows the parents my positive impact on the kids. In fact, during parent-teacher meetings, some parents would tell me the things that they love about my lessons. Once, I brought my army gear and recounted my experiences for a lesson on national defence, which the kids really enjoyed. The beginning is always the tough part. If I don’t do anything wrong and I have a clear conscience, parents will think, “he means no harm”. After some time, the parents would start to change the way they react to me and are more willing to trust me and communicate with me.
Do you think it’s important to have male teachers in the industry? Why?
Yes, as it is good to have a fatherly figure around and they are able to learn character and personality traits that are different from female teachers such as chivalry. For example, I once had a child who observed that I was always helping to carry the heavier things. He and started modelling after me and tried to be more helpful towards the female teachers.