Ms Tan Zi Wen
Deputy Centre Head, MOE Kindergarten @ West Spring
Formerly English Medium Senior Teacher, MOE Kindergarten @ Dazhong
Ms Tan Zi Wen regards teaching as a “work of heart”, so she pours her heart and soul into each day at the Ministry of Education (MOE) Kindergarten@Dazhong where she is a senior teacher.
A typical day for the 29-year-old begins at 7.30am and ends at 5pm. She teaches two classes a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Teaching in English, she is responsible for conducting the HI-Light and Starlight Literacy programmes for K2 children. The HI-Light Programme supports the holistic development of children through integrated learning experiences, while the Starlight Literacy Programme aims to nurture early childhood bilingualism and is offered in English and Singapore’s three official mother tongue languages.
KEEPING LESSONS COOL
To make lessons more engaging, she sometimes conducts activities outside the classroom. She recalls taking the children to the Hong Kah North Day Care Centre for the Elderly as part of the school’s “Start Small, Dream Big” project for the Early Childhood Development Agency’s (ECDA) President’s Challenge Project in conjunction with SG50.
Her class interacted with the elderly people at the centre and put on a dance performance for them. “It was heartwarming to see the children giving their best effort with smiles on their faces. Their sincerity moved the elderly and a few of them cried,” she says.
One of the challenges she faces in class is to plan lessons to cater to the different interests, abilities, skills and knowledge of the children. She adapts teaching and learning resources to meet these needs and works closely with MOE curriculum specialists to provide feedback about the MOE Kindergarten curriculum.“I provide the children with opportunities to explore ideas and knowledge, collaborate with one another, solve problems and develop knowledge and skills,” she says.
Working with others
It helps that her colleagues are a cohesive team who work closely to ensure they always provide a high quality of care and education for the children. The teachers at the kindergarten share information and expertise, working together to give the children rich learning experiences, she says. Communication, she says, is essential and she is thankful that her colleagues are open and comfortable with discussing how to improve teaching and learning methods.
She also builds close partnerships with parents and keeps them updated through phone calls, newsletters and e-mail. “Children learn so much more effectively when there is effective communication between school and home,” she says. It heartens Ms Tan when she receives positive feedback from parents that the children are learning well and enjoy her classes.
Her previous experience in the private sector of the early childhood industry has also helped in her current role.
The holder of a Diploma in Early Childhood Education — Leadership from Ngee Ann Polytechnic joined MOE Kindergarten two years ago, and was involved in setting up MOE Kindergarten’s first few centres. “The structured professional development opportunities provided by MOE help me become a better teacher. There are also good career progression opportunities,” she says. The job has given her opportunities to participate in events such as the MOE ExCEL Fest and workshops related to child development, curriculum and pedagogical practices at the Early Childhood Conference organised by ECDA. In July this year, she attended the Pacific Early Childhood Education Research Association’s three-day conference in Sydney, Australia. Currently pursuing a part-time bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education with Management, she hopes to apply effective strategies to improve children’s ability to obtain and retain knowledge.
“Teachers with flexible mindsets are open to growth. It is important to be receptive to new teaching content, methods and strategies. It is not only about asking why things are the way that they are, but also how they can be made better,” she says.
It all begins with a teacher
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