What makes a teacher? The New Age Parents spoke to principals and teachers from various schools and enrichment centres, to find out more about their philosophy, passion and aspiration.

Teacher Tini from Kiddiwinkie Schoolhouse

Teacher Profile
Name: Kartini Bte Zainon (otherwise known as Ms Tini to our children here!)
Role/Class: Deputy Principal and Playgroup teacher – oversees and plans the programme for the Playgroup and our N1 classes at Kiddiwinkie Schoohouse
Years in the industry: 15 years, still counting and loving it!

TNAP: Hi Tini! Tell us more about yourself!

I started off working in the Early Childhood industry when I was 18 while waiting for my ‘O’ Levels results. I was seconded to an NTUC Childcare branch and my 1st post was an Asst Teacher. It was an interesting challenge as it was not only a new field for me but being the youngest in my family, I had no younger siblings to care for.

I was sent for a Fundamental in Early Childhood course and I was later promoted from an Asst Teacher to a Class Teacher. As I was fairly young, I was unsure what my career path would be and so, after finishing the Certificate in Early Childhood, I left for a job position in the service industry. It lasted me for only 6 months. I missed the interaction with children and that was when I realized that this is going to be my chosen career.

I continued to attain a Diploma in Early Childhood (Teaching) and am currently undergoing a Diploma in Early Childhood (Leadership). In all, I’ve been in this industry for 15 years. I’ve taught both the youngest (18mths) and the oldest (6 years old) but my soft spot will always be with the 18 mths children.

I’ve had the privilege of working for private childcare centres as well as huge organizations; working with our local children and expatriate children too. The experience while different was nothing short of amazing.

Currently, I’m with Kiddiwinkie Schoolhouse @ The Grandstand. Prior to moving here, I was working in Pibos Garden (Hua Guan) for 5 years. I’m a teacher leading our Playgroup class and am also the Vice-Principal here where I oversee and plan the programme for our play-based classes.

TNAP: In your eyes, what makes an effective and good teacher?

An effective and good teacher will have certain unique qualities. For some children, that teacher is going to be their first teacher in their lives. Every little thought, action and choice of words matter, even to the youngest of children.

Hence the teacher should and must have these qualities:

  • Patience – each child has his/her own set of behavior and tantrums. Lots of patience is needed especially when handling younger children as they are not able to express their needs and wants through words.
  • Love for kids – this is vital as it is not possible to teach and be around children when you don’t love them
  • Passion for teaching – teaching younger children and older children are 2 very separate issues. More energy and time are required and creativity is a must.
  • Be like a kid and think like one (at times) – children need to enjoy learning and we need to be and think like a child in order to be able to relate and engage them.
  • Dedication – believe and love what you are doing. Results are not instantaneous.

TNAP: Who do you look up to as a role model in terms of your teaching career and why?

My first mentor in this EC field was my Principal at NTUC Childcare (1998). Being very inexperienced then, her guidance and advice helped me greatly. She was always there to guide me with encouragement and provide me with both constructive critique and positive feedback which challenged me to grow and improve. Through all that, I began to have more confidence in dealing with children and parents.

TNAP: Share with us one or two memorable moments in your teaching career that left a deep imprint in you.

I left one preschool in 2007 and I was teaching a K2 class at that time. A boy from China joined us, with no spoken and understanding of the English language. His mum was very worried as they planned to stay in Singapore long-term and was very concerned about him settling in school and coping with our education system. This is especially so when our educational system (during formal years) places a lot of emphasis on reading, writing and learning almost everything in English.

Soon after, he settled in well and was fast making progress in the picking up of the English language. His parents were both busy and the only form of communication I had with the boy’s grandmother and at times, through phone calls. After about 1½ years with me, he graduated and went on to Primary 1. I left the school soon after and lost touch with everyone in the school.

Recently I was walking around in the neighborhood, visiting old colleagues when suddenly a Chinese lady approached me and asked if I’m Miss Tini. I was shocked and apprehensive about answering her question. Seeing my reaction, she went on to explain that I was her son’s teacher a couple of years back and that up till today, her son still remembers me and kept asking where I am. Still trying to figure out who it was, she then took out a photograph of her child. It was then I remembered who it was.

It was a really great moment then as I knew that whatever I did for the child has created an impact in his life. I felt so touched and humbled at the same time.

TNAP: Looking back in your teaching career, were there any mistakes or decisions which you regretted? If yes, how did you learn from it?

I would not say that they are mistakes but a different turn? It took me quite a while to realize that this is my calling as I was quite interested in the service industry then. After careful thought and soul-searching, I realized that I feel more at ease and comfortable working with children. There is something very precious in being able to witness their development and growth.

TNAP: If no, what are the things you think teachers can continuously strive to improve and upgrade themselves in?

Teachers need to constantly be aware of new practices and teaching strategies. Always be on the lookout for updates and recent practices and researches. Teachers will also have to constantly reflect and evaluate their teaching styles and be ready to challenge themselves if they are doing their best to meet children’s needs.

TNAP: Parents sometimes put teachers on a very high pedestal sometimes and expect a lot from them. What do you wish more parents knew about the teaching profession?

Being in this industry has made me more aware of the importance of what a good and fulfilling early childhood should be.

A child has to be exposed to various areas to be well-rounded eg. Being book-smart as well as street-smart. There is also a lot to be learned and said about play-based programmes as each child learns differently because of differences in learning styles. Parents need to trust the teachers and work with us to ensure that their children’s preschool experience is a positive one and to also achieve the maximum impact on a child’s education and importantly, to have a happy childhood.

The teaching profession is a deeply gratifying yet demanding vocation as the responsibilities of EC teachers are huge; given that the children’s first experience of a learning environment falls on their interaction with these teachers.

TNAP: Complete this sentence. Teaching is…

A noble and humble profession that requires lots of patience, love and dedication.

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