Phoebie may only be 3 years old, but she has gone to 3 different pre-schools since she was 18 months old.
It’s not really by choice, because her first school was when we were in the US. She had to leave that school because we relocated back to Singapore. She attended her second school last year and the venue only offered playgroup classes, which meant that we had to look for another school for this year.
With 3 different schools, we’ve had some experience with different kinds of pre-school teachers.
The school that Phoebie attended in the US was quite big and in it were teachers of different characters. I’m thankful to say that Phoebie’s class had some of the school’s most patient teachers. They were loving and kind and even when the less-than-2-year-olds were cranky or difficult, they were firm in a very loving way. These teachers really made an impression and I still miss them until today.
The second school (or rather, playgroup) that Phoebie attended had a bit of a mix. I remember one teacher labeling Phoebie and took attendance by calling her “naughty Phoebie”, all because Phoebie couldn’t sit in her chair for as long as the teacher had wanted. I was rather upset by it because I really do not expect a two year old to sit still in her chair and listen for more than 5 minutes max.
I wanted to talk to the teacher about labeling children at that age and how detrimental it can be for them (do not underestimate the power of such words even when children are that young) but she left her teaching post for another job before I had a chance to speak to her.
This year, Phoebie started in her third (and hopefully permanent) pre-school. We had chosen this school because of a lot of good feedback from friends whose children are currently attending it. Even though we had to queue overnight for it (I know it sounds crazy), but we wanted to make sure Phoebie was in a good environment.
I didn’t get to meet her new teachers because I wasn’t able to go to Phoebie’s school with her on the first few days. To some extent, I wished I was able to because I would have loved to make some contact with her teachers.
Phoebie’s new teacher surprised me instead, by making frequent calls to me to update me about how Phoebie has been doing in school.
The calls started when the teacher noticed how Phoebie would refuse to go to potty in school. She was concerned because Phoebie takes the school bus and she wanted to make sure that Phoebie wasn’t holding her pee in for long hours. Because of her calls, I was able to explain to the teacher about Phoebie’s fear of going potty outside of our home.
Phoebie does pretty well when she goes potty at home but she refuses to go to any toilet that is not in our home or my parents’ place. I concluded, after observing her, that she had a fear of dropping into the toilet bowl and therefore refused to try. I didn’t want to force her because I didn’t want to scare her further and was waiting for her to be ready.
Upon understanding the situation, Phoebie’s teacher assured me that she would try her best to coax Phoebie into trying to go potty in school, especially when the toilet bowls are kiddy-sized.
After a couple of updates, Phoebie’s teacher called me today, sounding really excited. She said that they had shared an article about a boy who faced his fears despite some difficulties, and some of the children also shared how they overcame their fears by trying something new. The teacher then took the opportunity to say that while some children may have a fear of going to the toilet, maybe they can try it some day.
When it was time for potty break, Phoebie went up to her teacher and asked to go potty for the first time! Her teacher helped her and assured her that there was nothing to be afraid of. She even gave Phoebie a very big star and got the whole class to clap for Phoebie because Phoebie had faced her fear.
Throughout the whole phone call, the teacher sounded as excited and proud as she would have been if she was me, the mother. She said that it didn’t matter whether Phoebie actually peed into the toilet bowl today. What mattered was she was willing to try. I couldn’t agree with her more.
I thanked her profusely, for being so encouraging and so patient with Phoebie. Not only did she help Phoebie face her fear, but she also got everyone to applaud Phoebie for her achievement! This would be a far cry from calling out on Phoebie and naming her otherwise.
What a difference this pre-school teacher has made!!
So, crazy as we were to have queued overnight for a pre-school space for Phoebie, knowing that she is in such good hands makes it all worthwhile.
I hope pre-school teachers see how they impact the children under their care, how they truly matter in shaping a young child’s mind as they grow.
Phoebie’s teacher, I’m thankful for you!