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Teaching in the Language of Love - 以爱之语教学

Yanxia’s journey with Star Learners spans eight remarkable years, tracing her evolution to now a distinguished Senior Chinese Language Preschool Educator. Her commitment to this profession remains unwavering, evident in her extensive expertise encompassing curriculum and cultural knowledge and the orchestration of centre-wide events and activities. Notably, she stands as one of our nominees for this year’s prestigious Outstanding Preschool Educator Award by the Early Childhood Development Agency.

Beneath her accomplishments lies a deeper wellspring of motivation – her ardour for instilling authentic enthusiasm for the Chinese language among young learners. Her profound influence reverberates through her children, both past and present, whose heart-warming greetings on the streets echo their enduring affection for ‘Deng Laoshi’. Such encounters serve as poignant reminders of her lasting impact, forging connections that persist beyond the classroom walls. Read on to uncover the insights, stories and wisdom that illuminate her journey and underscore her dedication to nurturing young minds.

Senior CL Preschool Educator
@ Yio Chu Kang
8 Years with Star Learners

*Note: Responses shown in English are translated from interviewees’ original responses in Chinese

你是如何被激发去追求这份职业呢?

对于以华语为母语的我来说,使用华语来表达和交流是我的骄傲。带着这份骄傲,我选择了成为一名幼儿学前华文教育工作者。刚入职的是一间小型的私人幼儿园。面试时,幼儿园负责人并没有因为我没有相关的幼教专业文凭拒绝,而是让我加入该园所,成为一名华文学前教师,还送我去报读学前幼儿教育的大专文凭。白天我在园所内是一名教师,夜晚我在学校里是一名学生。我觉得那时的自己就像是一块海绵,不停地吸取触碰到的一切养分。繁琐的工作和学业,没有让我放弃,止步不前。相反的是,这份职业让我变得自信、自强。当时的教师资源匮乏,没有教案的我,就自己请人到中国采购挂图、故事绘本及相关的课程教案。没有图片的我,就自己动手绘图,也因此渐渐喜欢上了绘画。我时常会鼓励学校里的孩子们:“你们要大胆地去尝试画画,只要把你看到的、想到的描绘出来,不要担心自己画的不好,不断地练习,你也会是那个画得最好的孩子。”

What inspired you to pursue a career in teaching Chinese to young children?

As a native speaker of Mandarin, I am proud to use my first language to communicate and express myself. This pride led me down the path as a preschool educator teaching Chinese. At my first job interview at a small private kindergarten, the principal then did not dismiss me due to my lack of credentials in the field and encouraged me to pursue a diploma in early childhood education. Thus, I became a teacher during the day and a student at night, eagerly absorbing all the knowledge and experiences like a sponge. The demanding combination of work and studies strengthened my determination and resilience.

When I started in this industry 14 years ago, teaching resources were scarce. I sourced for materials like wall charts and storybooks directly from China and created my own illustrations, in the absence of readily available visual aids. This gradually sparked my interest in drawing. Using my own journey as an example, I often encourage the children to boldly express themselves when drawing, and not to be fixated on how the eventual product would look like. I believe that through consistent practice, anyone can be good at what they do.

在 Star Learners 工作这些年,你最引以为豪或觉得最有成就感的经历是什么?这经历对你产生了怎么样的影响?

让我最引以为豪的有两个记忆片段。

其一是刚刚入职Star Learners的时候,那时的我虽说已经从事幼教工作五、六年了,但是面对全新的工作挑战,仍然是压力倍增。然而丰富的课程设计,提升了我的教学能力;各种节日活动的策划制作开拓了我的视野,使我变得独立且自信。面对新的困难和事务,也不再焦虑、抗拒,而是放松心态,积极应对。把每一次的挑战都当作是一次学习的机会。有老师经常会问:“邓老师,是什么支撑你作为一名幼教工作者这么长的时间呢?”我想说:“因为喜爱所以热爱。”

其次,在Star Learners工作期间,我遇到了非常棒的工作团队。校长的信赖支持,同事之间亲密、互助的合作关系,让我开心、放心、用心地投入到工作当中。还记得是二0一七年,我们中心准备SPARK的等级检验,园所里从校长到每一位老师,为了顺利地通过检查,下班了都自愿留下来熬夜,准备检查所需的课室环境布置、教具等等。那种万众一心、齐心协力的感觉令人难忘。每一次节庆日、Star Project和毕业典礼的活动,老师们从活动设计、布置开展、顺利完成,都能集思广益、主动承担、不计较个人的得失。团队之间的这种良好的工作氛围,使我懂得了换位思考,理解他人,学会了有效地沟通是合作的桥梁。

What has been your proudest moment or most rewarding experience while working at Star Learners, and how has it impacted you personally or professionally?

There are two particular memories that I hold dear.

When I first joined Star Learners, I was doubly stressed as I dealt with the challenges of being in a new work environment. This was in spite of my 5 to 6 years of experience in early childhood education. However, our robustly-designed curriculum enriched my professional expertise. The opportunity to organise centre events and activities also broadened my horizons and fostered a newfound independence and confidence. The initial waves of anxiety and resistance were replaced by a composed mindset, as I started to embrace every obstacle as a chance for growth and confronted challenges positively. When fellow teachers ask me, “Deng Laoshi, what keeps you in this industry for such a long time?” My response would always be, “The love I have fuels my passion.”

I am fortunate to be a part of an exceptional team of colleagues whose mutual trust and support, along with a positive relationship with our principal, enable me to dedicate myself wholeheartedly to my job. When our centre was preparing for the SPARK accreditation assessment in 2017, all of us, principal included, undertook a collective endeavour beyond regular hours to meticulously organise the classrooms and refine teaching materials. This shared experience remains imprinted in my memory. Be it festive celebrations, Star Projects or graduation ceremonies, every one of us contributes generously in activity design, decor and setup. As we collaborate harmoniously, personal achievements take a backseat. Such a work environment has nurtured my sense of empathy, taught me perspectives, and the importance of effective communication to ensure successful teamwork.

请分享一些你在教学生涯中的成功故事或令人难忘的时刻,重点突出你教授中文给年幼儿童的影响。你是如何衡量孩子们的进步和成长?

每当去学校上班的路上,都会遇到曾经教过的孩子。即使长大了,孩子们仍然一声声地“邓老师“地打招呼。虽然有时我已叫不出孩子的名字,但那一个个瞬间让我感动、难忘。十四年的华文教学,我感受到幼儿学习的兴趣是关键。如何使学前幼儿喜欢学习华文,期待上华文课呢?这是我一直在思考的问题。年幼儿童的发展特点是专注时间短、易分心。因此在日常教学中我会根据教案的目标,设计一些好玩有趣的游戏活动,将孩子吸引进来。例如”第三学期启蒙二班的活动“好吃的根”,教案请老师准备好吃的根。我想到学校附近有巴刹,就组织一次“去巴刹购买好吃的根”活动,请小朋友们体验在巴刹里寻找学过的“好吃的根”。孩子们的进步和成长,对老师、家长和幼儿都很重要。随着教龄的增长,我发觉到鼓励对孩子们引导至关重要。因此每日里,对于幼儿表现出的良好行为,或是语言表达方面,我都当下在全班孩子面前给予表扬称赞。我个人认为孩子们的进步和成长是一步步积累起来的。例如:“昨天的他穿尿布,今天的他可以自己如厕;昨天的他不敢上攀爬架,今天的他牵着老师的手慢慢往上攀爬,即使孩子不敢放手,也是一种敢于尝试的进步和成长。”

Can you share any success stories or memorable moments from your teaching career that highlight the impact of teaching Chinese language to young children? How do you measure the progress and growth of your children?

On my way to work, I would meet children I once taught. What’s amazing is that even as they’ve grown older, they still remember me and shout out, “Deng Laoshi!” While I might struggle to recall every name, those brief encounters are memorable to me.

After 14 years of teaching Chinese, I’ve learnt that culvitating interest in the subject is crucial to a child’s learning. Hence, figuring out how to make Chinese exciting for preschoolers is something I’m always thinking about. Children have short attention spans and are distracted easily. To overcome that, I come up with fun games and activities that match what we’re learning, to keep them engaged. For example, the children were learning about root vegetables in Term 3. I noticed there was a market near the centre, so I came up with a ‘Market Adventure’ activity, where children had a blast searching for tasty root vegetables they learnt about!

Seeing our young ones grow and develop well means a lot to us teachers, as well as to their parents and themselves. The longer I’ve been teaching, the more I’ve realised how important it is to encourage and guide these little learners. That is why I don’t shy from publicly praising children when they do something good or make progress in their learning. I truly believe that a child’s progress happens step by step. It’s like them being in diapers yesterday but using the restroom independently the next day; nervous about climbing yesterday but holding my hand and giving it a shot today. Even if a child takes things slow, it is a bold step forward and signifies progress and growth nonetheless.

As we collaborate harmoniously, personal achievements take a backseat. Such a work environment has nurtured my sense of empathy, taught me perspectives, and the importance of effective communication to ensure successful teamwork.

你在Star Learners执教已有八年了。你是如何保持对这份工作的热忱?是否有任何特定的活动或心态能够帮助你保持这份热忱?

这八年里我在Star Learners从一名幼儿华文教师,到现在的华文高级教师。学习到丰富的专业文化知识;学习到节日、故事日和外出活动日的策划和组织。收获到同事、校长和家长的信任与支持,还有个人自信心的满足感。因此我对这份工作充满了喜爱和依赖。要保持对一份工作的热忱和新鲜感,不是那么简单的一件事。十四年的工作经历,每日的工作流程不变,会变得是每年带班孩子们表现出的回馈是不一样的。我记得曾经和一位年轻的同事这么说过:“如果两年都带了幼稚二班,虽然教学内容是一样的,孩子却是不同的,会有不一样的反馈和经验。也可以将之前没做好的活动,换种方式去尝试。”要说有什么特定的活动或是心态,我想是每年度都调整好心态,忘记过去的失败和不如意,会以一个新的起点开始。

How do you maintain your own motivation and enthusiasm even after 8 years of teaching here at Star Learners? Are there any specific activities or just a mindset that help you stay inspired and passionate about your work?

Over the last eight years at Star Learners, my journey has transformed me from a Chinese preschool educator to my current role as a senior Chinese preschool educator. Along this path, I’ve gathered a ton of cultural know-how and fine-tuned my knack for planning and running all sorts of events. I have has also built strong bonds of trust and support with my colleagues, principals and parents. It’s given me a new sense of confidence and fulfilment, making my connection with this job even stronger.

Staying constantly motivated and finding excitement in your daily job isn’t as simple as it might seem. After 14 years, even though the daily routines keep ticking along, the feedback and reactions from the batches of children I teach are always fresh and unique. I remember sharing this with a younger colleague: “Teaching the same stuff to the Nursery 2 class two years in a row might feel like a rerun, but because every group of children is different, it’ll always be a whole new experience. There’s always a chance to redo activities that didn’t quite click before by giving them a new twist.”

If I had to point out specific things that help, I’d say it’s all about adjusting your perspective every year. It means letting go of past hiccups and disappointments, approaching the new year with a clean slate and being open to exploring new approaches.

在我们Star Learners成立20年之际,你对Star Learners有哪些祝语吗?

What are your wishes for Star Learners as we celebrate 20 Inspiring Years?

我希望Star Learners这棵参天大树,枝繁叶茂、茁壮成长!也愿陪伴着大树的我们,幸福开心、平安快乐!

As we mark two decades of inspiration, my hopes for Star Learners are simple yet heartfelt. May it continue to grow like a lush tree, spreading its branches and leaves far and wide, radiating strength and energy. And as we journey together, I wish for all of us to find happiness and joy, with each day filled with safety and contentment.