Nabila Alkaff is currently a Year 1 FASS student at NUS. Read part one of her interview here: http://aiesec.org.sg/1262-2/
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of doing something like you?
I think passion is essential. You can’t love every kid, it’s not possible, and I learnt that.
When I saw this kid, I was thinking, I just can’t love you, but I will do my best to provide you with what you need to learn. So I think you just need to have passion, open-mindedness. It’s not an easy job. When I was in polytechnic, a lot of my friends will ask me what are you learning? Are you learning to change diapers?
What you need to educate a child is a lot more. There is physical, emotional, intellectual and social. And especially when I was teaching the 18-months, I felt like, what was I doing. I was thinking in the form of a parent. Maybe it’s just my self-esteem. Because I was thinking that I wouldn’t put my kids in this expensive programme, under my care, for 3-4 hours. I wouldn’t put them in school like through this programme.
After the whole thing, I realised that I actually did an okay job. I saw the kids improve and everything. So I think you need to be open-minded. There are a lot of aspects. Not just about teaching them how to count etc. Children go to school for different reasons, I think you need to be aware and open to that.
Has it changed your perspective on anything?
I guess I have always believed that children should have fun; learn through play, that kind of thing, and not just brute learning. So I think this experience reinforces that what I thought, what I believe was right. These children grow up to be happy, and they learn.
Would you attempt to do it with children who speak a different language and of a different culture?
Yes, I think it would be interesting. It would be a new challenge. But if you’re talking about kids then it won’t be much of a language barrier because you can understand them through different ways. Different materials that you put out. They will be more open to compared to older children.
Do you have anything memorable from the time?
Yeah. Quite a few. I mean, I made a lot of good friends, like like-minded people in the industry, but I think like memories… Once, because I was teaching the 18-months, and it was my first class. So it was my first time ever being in-charge of a group of children and liaising with their parents. So I was with this 18-month division, and it was time to go home. So what I used to do was that when it was 5-10 minutes before going back, we would sing the goodbye song and I would get them to sit at the table.
They’re sitting so you can go see if their parents were there, then you can send them off. So we were doing that, and it was a bit chaotic, and this child, he kept running around. So I got him and pushed him in with the chair, so I could walk off and attend to someone else. And then he would be off the chair again. So I was like, oh my gosh. And I went and I did the same thing, and the minute I turn around – I was walking off – I heard a scream. A bang and a big scream. And it was really sharp. Like I haven’t heard him scream that bad since. I turned around and he was on the floor, and the chair had fallen backwards. And I was like, oh my gosh. So I ran and I picked him up, calmed myself down and passed him to my laoshi, so I could look at the other children. And she said, you need to go down. You need to call the senior teacher and the boss. Cause, she showed me his head, and there was a cut. It was bleeding. So I was like, oh my gosh. So I ran down, and I called them up. And there was a big hoo-ha, while we were figuring out what to do, checking the CCTV.
He was meant to be on the school bus and I didn’t put him on the bus, I made sure he didn’t sleep, cause of all the things we didn’t want it to be a concussion. So there was a scratch. Cause when he fell, we watched the CCTV, there was a shelf behind. Everything was child-proofed, but the side wasn’t. So when he fell, he hit the part that was sticking out. And there was blood.
When his parents came, they were very nice. They were very kind parents. So I think for this kind of thing to happen when I was with understanding people, for whom this was not their first child, they looked at it they touched it and then they just brought him home. I asked “is everything okay?” and the mum just replied, “ I just want to know what happened so that I can teach what not to do next time, so it was an unforgettable experience. Because of how traumatising the incident was. If it were anybody else that that happened to, I would like probably lose my job or something.