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Jobs 101: Pre-school teacher

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Being a pre-school teacher is more than just changing diapers and playing with cute kids.

Zawiah Wahid never dreamed that she would work in early childhood education. She had always wanted to become an interior designer, but after getting a taste of teaching young children, she never looked back.

Now a full-time pre-school teacher in My Prep School, Zawiah teaches the Nursery One class and enjoys interacting with her students every day.  

Who: Zawiah Wahid, 33
Occupation: Pre-school teacher
Studied: WSQ Advanced Certificate in Early Years at Asian International College

Tell us more about yourself!

When I was younger, I used to imagine myself in different jobs, like being a doctor or a cook, but I never role-played as a teacher. In fact, I set my sights on becoming an interior designer and I worked towards it.

How did you become a pre-school teacher?

After my O-Levels, I decided to take up a part-time job in a childcare center as an assistant teacher. From there, I gained experience interacting with kids. I still wanted to become an interior designer so I enrolled in the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in the Diploma in Design (Interior and Exhibition).

When I graduated, however, the market for interior designers was quite bad. Having previous experience with kids, I took up a job in after-school care to support myself.

After a while in the industry, I fell in love with interacting with kids, and I was curious about their development so I decided to make this my career and upgrade myself.

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The Nursery one classroom that Zawiah teaches in.

I took the WSQ Advanced Certificate in Early Years from Asian International College in 2016, and that was a decision that I definitely do not regret. 

What are some of the challenges that you face being a pre-school teacher?

I think parents pose a challenge sometimes. Some parents are quite fussy and enquire about the smallest things, like why their child sustained mosquito bites.

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Although Zawiah doubted herself in the beginning as she came from a design background, her colleagues encouraged her to persevere and continue in her career.

What's a typical day like for you?

It's always very hectic in the morning! 

The parents drop their children off at our pre-school around 8am. While we're trying to get the kids to settle down, their parents sometimes stop us to chat. These chats can include anything from what their child is going to have for lunch to any concerns that they might have.

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Getting ready for classes in the morning.

The children have lessons until 11.30am, when they have their lunch break. During this time, children who are in school for half a day go home.

From 1 to 3pm, they have their nap time and afternoon snack, and at 3pm the children who are in school for three quarters of a day go home.

The rest of the children continue having lessons until 4.50pm, when the last batch of full-day students go home.

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Artwork that the children do as part of class activities.

On my long days, I have to stay back until 6.30pm to disinfect the classroom, including all the toys and learning materials.

What's the most memorable experience that you've had as a pre-school teacher? 

In the previous school I taught at, there was this girl who was very nice to me. On my birthday and even on Hari Raya, she would give me a card. 

Currently, she's in primary three and she still sends handwritten cards to my home address. She never forgets my birthday and during Teachers' Day, her mother would drop me a message wishing me well.

These small things make me appreciate and really enjoy being a pre-school teacher.

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One of the teaching materials used in lessons.
PHOTO CREDITS: YOUTH.SG/LIYANA GHAZALI

What advice would you give to youths considering a career as a pre-school teacher? 

You need to be patient. Patience is very important in this industry when it comes to dealing with both parents and children. 

You also need to love interacting with kids as well! Not just playing with them, but bathing them and changing their diapers too.

Educational requirements: A certificate or diploma in early childhood education.

Qualities needed: Patience, passion for kids and good time management skills.

Salary range: Basic salary starts at $1,500. With more experience, the salary increases, going up to $2,500.

Working hours: Eight to nine hours, from 8am to 5pm. On long days, it can extend to 6.30pm.

Career prospects: You can advance from a teacher to a senior teacher to a principal. With a master's degree in early childhood education, you can become a lecturer and teach other prospective early childhood educators.