I must confess that on the first day of my second year teaching Prep students at The Harbour Village, I felt a little apprehensive and yet, excited. I had read the files on the new students and seen some of their pictures. I wondered how different the class will be compared to the previous year. From experience I know that no two classes are the same and they are always very different.
Prep at THS is a two-year early childhood program where four to six-year-old students share the learning journey together. Students that come in the first year of Prep school stay in the same class with the same teacher for two years. Lessons in literacy, phonics and maths are taught in differentiated ability groupings. For the rest of the subjects including social studies, science, mandarin, PE and music as well as during homeroom discussion time, we keep the students together regardless of their age.
This year, I had four students who was in my class last year. This year, they are the “older students”, together with some new ones. It has been wonderful seeing these four students take the role of mentors for the younger ones. I must admit that they had very good role models last year and they learnt the trade from them really well. They were fantastic at welcoming the new students into their new class, showing them around the school, helping them settle down into the routines and inherit the class culture. I was very proud of them. It is heartwarming to see the younger ones look up to them and follow their lead. This really proves that mixing students of different ages is very beneficial - leadership becomes a natural part of their school life, collaborative learning is encouraged and students learn from teaching each other.
This year I chose a Dr. Seuss theme to decorate my classroom. I tried to re-create his amazingly bright, cheerful and colourful world in my class. For the first two weeks, the kids got to know each other through his books. We had very meaningful discussions and we realized that we are all very different. It is these differences that make us special. We took Dr. Seuss’ words and made them ours by rephrasing them for our class motto “We may all be different fish, but in Prep D we all swim together”.
I take the Pre-K Maths, Literacy and Phonics groups and what concerns me most is not their ability to learn the academic content. Far from it. It was to see how poor some pre-schoolers’ fine motor skills are. One example is how hard they found tearing tissue paper, making paper balls, cutting and drawing. A few students said they had never torn a paper with their fingers before. I couldn’t believe it at first, but after a minute of reflection I realized that few families nowadays have magazines and newspapers lying around on their coffee tables. We have replaced them with e-books and online subscriptions so perhaps, there are no old magazines to play around with anymore. The only finger exercises this generation do is flicking the screen on their iPad and that, does not help to strengthen their fine motor muscles. My only request to parents would be to delay as much as possible the introduction of iPads into their kids’ life. Sit down and make puzzles, tear papers and make collages, let kids paint with their fingers and enjoy these moments with them...they grow up very fast.
My highlight of this year was dressing us as “Captain Underpants” for Booktober Character Parade. It took me a little thinking to come up with my choice. I must admit, you need to be a bit of a performer...not a clown...to be able to engage this new generation of children on their learning journey. And I love that. There is nothing better than seeing them learn with a smile. Even if that requires me to transform into “Captain Underpants” to nurture the love for reading by letting them know that reading can give you ‘powers’. One of my students asked me, “Ms Martinez, how could you be so fat today?” How sweet and innocent!
I love teaching this young age group. Their imagination has no limits, they are inquisitive about the world and how everything works and their willingness and eagerness to learn is inspiring. Nurturing their love for learning - it is the best job to have.