Ms. Pooja started teaching 13 years ago after attaining a Diploma in Early Childhood Education (Teaching & Leadership) at Ngee Ann Polytechnic. After teaching for a year, she went on to pursue her Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood Education) and attained a position in the Dean’s Merit List. She shares with TNAP her teaching journey and what kept her going through the years.

Ms Pooja, Chief Curriculum Officer from Nurture Education Group

Hi Pooja, you started teaching when you were…

18! I started as a teacher where it was fun yet daunting duty to work in the Playgroup’s class. I progressed slowly from there moving to a Senior Teacher. I have been blessed with the opportunity to teach across various levels – from PG through to Kindergarten 2 before becoming a Principal, and having a chance to head the Curriculum Team at Nurture Education Group.

The early childhood industry is known for its high turnover rate. What kept you going all these years?

It would be the joy at being entrusted with a mission so meaningful – I could be nurturing future leaders. I enjoy working with children and having the opportunity to see the light of wonderment in their eyes. It slows me down, prompting me to enjoy the moment with the children in my class. I find it both an honour and a reward to be entrusted to not only care for them, but to guide and nurture them too. In addition, it is also the career progression and the expansion of duties and scope where I moved from a Teacher to a Senior Teacher before moving into a Management role as well as the Head of Curriculum. These new roles keep me on my toes and added different dimensions to my career in the industry.

Is passion alone enough? What do you think are some of the push and pull factors that drive teachers out of the industry?

No. Alongside passion, I feel you need resilience, perseverance, commitment, sacrifice, dedication and hard work. Also, you need to bear in mind these are important lives you are dealing with. As an educator we are accountable of the seeds we sow in children’s lives. As William Butler Yeats aptly puts it “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”

Some of the push factors can be workload which can be demanding. Besides teaching, there is also administrative work involved – the writing of progress reports, emails to parents, preparation of learning aids, lesson plans, etc. Also, in Singapore, there is less recognition of the ECH (Early Childhood) industry and comparatively to some other countries, the salary scales may not be as attractive. However, this is where the passion kicks in – there is just so much immense job satisfaction when you see the joy and smiles on children’s faces and you know that you made a difference!

Any one that inspires you or anyone you look up to in this industry?

This would be my CEO of Nurture Education Group, Julie Koh. She’s a motivating, caring, encouraging and is always looking at the best interest of children, teachers, parents and her staff. Having started off as a teacher herself, she is very hands on and never fails to inspire me with her patience and love for children.

Ms Pooja, with a parent at Kiddiwinkie SchoolHouse

Most memorable moments in your teaching career?

The most memorable moment is when the children that I have taught become top students in schools and importantly, they still hold the values we have helped built in them even when they are older.

To aspiring early childhood teachers or current teachers out there, any words of advice?

Work with children, learn alongside with them and rediscover the world they live in through their eyes. Recognise that they are each uniquely different and that we can draw inspiration from them. Importantly, honour each child as they hold the promise of our future. I would like to leave with all my fellow educators this wonderful quote:

“A hundred years from now, it will not matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had in the bank… but the world may be better place because I made a difference in the life of a child.” – Forest Witcraft

This article was first published in The New Age Parents Aug / Sep 2014 e-magazine