Jul 15, 2014

Making a Better Preschool Environment for All

Media Invite

As parents ourselves, I am sure we all know the importance of the early childhood years (0 to 6 years old) in our children. In fact, these six years play a major role in a child's development so not only parents but care-givers and teachers will no doubt have an extremely significant impact in the child's early years.

Personally, I have the utmost respect for people working as pre-school teachers. Just spending time alone at home with my three monkies can drive me bonkers at times, so I cannot imagine the amount of stress and hard work that these group of teachers face on a daily basis. Truly, these are jobs that require a lot of patience and genuine care from the heart.

I was invited by My First Skool at Parkway Parade last month to participate in its celebration for Father's Day, and it was an eye-opener of sorts for me.

My First Skool is the pioneer childcare arm of NTUC (National Trades Union Congress) First Campus Co-operative Limited and has 108 centers in Singapore. It was established as NTUC Childcare in 1977 and became an co-operative in 1992. Operating mainly at void decks of housing estates, MFS aims to provide quality and affordable childcare service that is accessible to parents. My First Skool believes in empowering children to learn through a methodical approach, called PETAL - Playing, Exploring, Thinking, and Applying Learning.

Back to the event, which was kept informal with songs and dance items performed by the children in appreciation of their Dads who were the captivated audience.

To say the Dads were immensely proud and touched was an understatement. I know, because I have been through that. The first time that I saw either of my monkies prancing on stage was a priceless moment itself, and I have made it a point to catch all of their performances no matter how busy I am.

The mini-concert then ended off with some bonding games for both Dad and child to participate together, like sandwich-making and dressing-up competitions.

But the greatest takeaway from my visit was not the performances or games. Rather, it was through my conversations with My First Skool (Parkway Parade)'s Principal and some of its teachers.

The Principal is a strong advocate of maintaining an open channel of communication with the parents. In doing so, this helped to bridge the invisible wall of uncertainty and increase trust between parents and teachers. And this can be seen by her approach to having parents drop off their kids in the mornings. At other centres, parents usually drop their kids off at the main gates, hug, say their goodbyes and watch them troop into the centre. But not at My First Skool, Parkway Parade.

Here, parents are able to bring their kids all the way into the classroom. And if they feel like it, they can even sit down and have breakfast with them before going off to work! This is the principal's way of allowing quality time to be spent between parent and child. Parents can also take the opportunity to get updates from their child's teachers.

In fact, this has worked so well that the Principal remarked that come Parent-Teacher Meeting time, the parents are already well informed and able to be candid with the teachers!

Another initiative of My First Skool, Parkway Parade is the Facebook groups that has been set up for the various classes, so that the form teachers can share photos and upcoming events with the parents. While having a Facebook group is nothing new, the Principal shared that the presence of the groups had not only forged closer ties between parents and the school but between parents themselves too.

One plus point to come out from the set up of the Facebook groups is the higher-than-anticipated participation rate from parents. If there is a lack of parent volunteers at other centres, My First Skool at Parkway Parade is blessed with a happy problem - there is never a shortage of parent volunteers when it comes to school events!

I guess at the end of the day, My First Skool, Parkway Parade is one centre that truly believes in openly engaging its parents and keeping them informed throughout their children's school years. This can only serve to build trust between parents and staff which is extremely important. Because only with trust, parents will be able to curb their instincts to judge and criticise but instead, leave the teachers to do their jobs which makes it less stressful for them, and more productive... creating a better and more conducive preschool environment for all.

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