Two of our Centre Leaders, Bethanie Wong from Ghim Moh Centre and Joanne Goh from Woodlands Centre took a trip to Bangkok, Thailand to learn from the educators at Jittamett Kindergarten and Hotel Cream, a creative literacy centre and after school club. They share some of their reflections and takeaways that they would love to implement in their own centres!
What was your biggest takeaway from the trip? Why was it so significant to you?
Joanne (Woodlands Centre): Giving children ample time for their activities. I love how there was time given to the children to carry out and finish an activity. There was no rush, and the children could take their time to complete the activity of the day. Through this, the children learn patience, persistence, and endurance, as they work to complete the activity independently. On the same note, the teaching and support staff all have this very ‘zen’ mode to them - there is this unhurried feeling and vibe they carry that rubs off onto the children. I believe the allowance of time for the children to carry out their activities unhurried also helps the teachers emotionally, as they are not burdened by the heaviness of having to rush through each activity due to time constraints.
Bethanie (Ghim Moh Centre): Jittamette Team’s unity in their Vision & Mission. I found out that Jittamett wanted every child that came through their doors to leave their school with values that helped them to be a good person. Directors Cru Ka and Cru Kloom believed that the world would be a happy place if there were more good people.
This vision can be seen through their mission of promotes self-awareness and self-regulation in the children. For example, knowing their schedule for the day, talking about their feelings using feeling cards during circle time as well as turn taking using external mediators/tools (grass with magic stone) & non-verbal cues.
The directors of the school also wanted to develop the children’s ability to learn and prepare them for the VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) world. This could be seen in their curriculum where children are given the opportunity to have open-ended exploration of ideas and concepts. The teachers act as facilitator and co-constructors of the children’s knowledge. The environment as well as activities had no right or wrong. This concept of open-ended exploration and learning develops the children’s ability to problem solve and learn new skills as well as knowledge independently. Cru Ka said, “We teach children to learn and the rest is up to them.” This was so powerful!
What really struck me was that each and every person, even the assistant teachers and the centre aides on the Jittamett team seemed to have such a strong conviction in the school's vision and they put in all their effort into working as a team to make sure that they uphold what they believed in. It was truly inspiring!
What are some aspirations you have for your Centre now that you have gone on this trip? What challenges do you foresee when implementing these new approaches in Singapore? Joanne (Woodlands Centre) : Mixed age-group learning spaces – I am looking to work with my team on how we can incorporate mixed age-group learning spaces. This will allow the children of different age groups to mingle and indirectly learn from each other despite their different age groups. For teachers, this will help to encourage the sharing of ideas as they work together to set up mixed age-group learning spaces.
Using provocation in learning spaces – This is to ‘provoke’ the children’s imagination to create something of their own at the mixed age-group learning spaces. We want to foster the development of creativity and imagination in the children, and this is in line with our curriculum where imagination is part of the key strategy for learning. Teachers in these spaces will become facilitators to children who need guidance or children whose development is delayed and would need some sort of booster to help them make use of their creativity and imagination.
A challenge that I foresee for teachers is that they will need to practice the concept of ‘letting go’, as mixed age-group learning spaces and the use of provocation would result in children planning their play in a different direction, as opposed to what we adults have thought they would have done. Essentially it is not to see learning spaces as having objectives that the children must reach, but to see creativity and imagination as the primary focus while objectives are the secondary by-product.
For children, a challenge I would think that might occur is that children might need to practice creating things on their own without instructions from adults. Naturally, children with sufficient exposure can create a product out of their imagination. However, in Singapore, our children are usually asked to do things based on what adults ask them to do, and therefore it limits their use of creativity.
Bethanie (Ghim Moh Centre): Reigniting my team’s enthusiasm and passion of being a teacher by placing their well-being as priority. I would like be a part of making them feel happy to come into Ghim Moh, starting with welcoming environment where everyone feels appreciated! Promoting teamwork as well as providing interesting ideas for centre activities and introducing interesting activities into the learning spaces and of course be a role model.
I will then slowly work on sharing strategies of promoting self-awareness and self-regulation in children with my teachers. With this, I hope that the teachers spend less time on class management and thus have more capacity for presentation and details as well as providing children with a larger quantity of materials.
However, we face challenges related to Culture, Time & Space in Singapore. The fast-paced life and the demands of academic education in Singapore makes it hard for us educators to slow down and put more attention to details and providing children with more resources. We often hear that ‘There’s so much to do and so little time.’ The education culture in Singapore is also very task and objective driven where children’s learning has to be measurable so that they can be assessed. Furthermore, educators are also preoccupied with making sure that children’s learning is being documented. For example, to make sure that adequate photos are taken for the children’s portfolios.
The open concept layout and obstructed space that we have as a void deck centre is not very ideal to create spaces in which the children enter and know how to respond to be self-aware and to practice self-gelation in response to the space and the activities conducted inside the space. For example, we don’t have space for a peaceful art room, a lively music room or an exciting and busy outdoor playground.
How has this trip shaped your goals for your Centre moving forward?
Joanne (Woodlands Centre) : My new goals are in line with what we are already trying to achieve. At PPS Woodlands, we love for the children to share their thoughts, questions, and suggestions. For example, one of our K2 children suggested a certain location for the school’s Term 4 field trip. In line with our centre’s goal, we decided to ask the child to work with her class to produce a proposal and to also get the agreement from all classes in their planning for their Term 4’s field trip. This is our culture, for children to be owners of their learning, and learning that is not just for academics but for life. This trip has therefore furthered my resolve that children can indeed be owners of their own learning if the right elements are being placed in their learning environment.
Bethanie (Ghim Moh Centre): This trip helped me see the importance of having a like-minded and dedicated team that is in line with the company’s vision and mission. My goal for the centre is to have committed, passionate, enthusiastic and happy teachers stay the same but this trip helped me see what my centre will look like if I eventually manage to bring my team together onto the same boat. Such an eye opening and encouraging opportunity to see the full potential of a like-minded and dedicated team! Such a wonderful and fulfilling study trip.