Shaping young minds : An interview with Early Childhood Educator Chian Yuan Han

Imagine being peppered with questions by bright-eyed children, and knowing that your responses may shape their worldview forever.

What about being a friend, disciplinarian, customer relations officer and guidance counsellor all at the same time to over ten individuals daily? Can you handle the responsibility?

Well, these are just some of the many tasks that Chian Yuan Han undertakes! The centre is part of the Busy Bees Asia group of preschools, which has over 50 centres across Singapore, and Yuan Han is a preschool teacher with them. Curious about Yuan Han’s journey as an early childhood educator and how she came to join this profession, we asked her a couple of questions that she was—thankfully—more than happy to answer.

A (childhood) dream come true

Yuan Han credits her decision to join the teaching sector to having good teachers of her own while growing up.

“It was my childhood aspiration to enter the teaching industry as the teachers I encountered during my education journey have left a profound impression on me,” she reveals.

She decided to specialise in early childhood education after an impactful stint, post A-level examinations, at a student care centre. There, she noticed how the Primary One students she taught had widely differing numeracy and literacy capabilities.

“This got me thinking about the importance of a child’s preschool years in establishing the foundations for literacy, numeracy, and social and emotional development,” Yuan Han continues.

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“Such experiences inspired me to become a teacher to help children discover and nurture their strengths, cultivate important values, and realise their full potential.”

To realise her dream, she pursued a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood Education) at the Singapore campus of James Cook University, which is one of the few universities in Singapore to offer an undergraduate programme in Early Childhood Education.

The programme’s accreditations were a major draw: it is fully accredited with the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) and nationally accredited through the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) in association with the Queensland College of Teachers (QCT). Graduates of the programme will therefore be eligible to apply for teacher registration in Australia; this opens the doors for Yuan Han to teach or further her studies in Australia, something she greatly appreciates.

Yuan Han particularly enjoyed the teaching for learning modules. During these modules, Yuan Han learned about different educational theories and various learning pedagogies, engaged in constructive discussion with her peers and lecturers using education academia, and put everything into practice during a 120-day workplace attachment.

Teaching by example

The afternoon sun is merciless, but Yuan Han remains relaxed and cheerful as she poses for our camera. These qualities help her keep up with the class she’s in charge of.

To the twelve three-year-old children, she is Miss Han, a steady presence who eats with them during lunch, reads to them, and is a role model to emulate. She tells us how the children practise what they learnt at home, to the amusement of both her and their parents.

“A parent shared with me how their child told them off during dinner for talking and said ‘Miss Han says no talking when eating food!’” Yuan Han shares amusedly. “Sometimes, I do not even feel like I am at work as it is so much fun being with the children. It is extremely rewarding to see them grow up each day!”

As Yuan Han works on being the best teacher she can be to her young charges, she never forgets to draw inspiration from the teachers in her life.

“During my course of study at JCU, a lecturer once said that, to become great teachers, we must learn how to be appreciative of our teachers first. I fully agree with this statement,” she says.

She is especially grateful to Miss Celina, Miss Grace and Dr. Robyn, who have been “extremely helpful, sincere, and approachable” during her course of study. According to Yuan Han, Miss Celina would include anecdotes in her lectures to help students better understand the subject material. She also got Yuan Han and her coursemates to construct a graphic organiser together, to better organise key information catering to all students’ learning styles.

Miss Grace supported Yuan Han’s learning according to her individual needs, providing immediate and constructive feedback which enabled her to become an independent and competent learner. Meanwhile, Dr. Robyn encouraged Yuan Han to continue her involvement in JCU Singapore’s clubs and societies to challenge herself further; formerly a President of the JCU Singapore Mateship Programme (Orientation Committee), she still serves in an advisory capacity today.

“My lecturers are a clear embodiment of the theories they have inculcated during lectures and putting it in practice—demonstrating how I should be like as well as a future educator,” Yuan Han concludes.

Her advice for those considering Early Childhood Education

We asked Yuan Han if her journey in Early Childhood Education has changed her, and her answer is a definite yes.

“I have become more outspoken as my role as an Early Childhood Educator requires me to communicate with my students, parents and colleagues,” she reflects.

Yuan Han has also become more flexible and adaptable as she caters to her students’ differing needs, learning styles, and communication methods. While COVID-19 has made her formal entry into teaching a challenging one, she has embraced the new normal and come up with innovative ways to explain the situation to her class like simple ‘experiments’ and storytelling.

Her advice to budding teachers?

“Manage your time efficiently and be on the lookout for various opportunities to develop yourself as a future educator. These opportunities could include volunteering with Youth Corp Singapore, taking up part-time jobs and/or leadership positions at clubs and societies.”

“The opportunities that I had as an undergraduate equipped me with the relevant technical and non-technical skill sets that supported my transition from a fresh graduate to a full-fledged preschool teacher with my own class”, she explains.

We certainly can’t agree more.

This article was written with the help of the Singapore campus of James Cook University. Interested to learn more about JCU’s Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood Education)? You can watch their Course Preview Webinar here.

 

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