Voices from the Field: Iris Lim

 

Iris Lim  

My message to colleagues around the world:
Be open, embrace the unknown!

Country: Singapore
Job title: P
reschool principal (cluster)
Sector: Early Childhood Education
Works with children: 24 months - 6 years
Years of experience in her role: 12 years

 

If you could send one positive message to your colleagues around the globe at these challenging times, what would it be?
Be open and embrace the unknown!

 

If you could send one positive message to children and families/caregivers around the globe at these challenging times, what would it be?
Play, be silly, and find creative ways to have fun!

 

What are you learning during these times as an individual and a professional?
I am always looking for change and new projects to engage in, so I found this pandemic stimulating and exciting. It challenges my creativity and ability to problem-solve.
During these times, I also learnt when to say "stop." I've learnt when I should tell myself that what I have tried is not working and that I need to review my priorities and refocus on my purpose.

I have also developed rituals to sustain my energy under tight timelines and pressure. These rituals were especially crucial during busy times. For example, I start the day early with a walk or workout. For me, this is a mind detox. I have also scheduled time for lunch and avoid answering any calls so that I can refocus.

On an individual level, as an outgoing and social person, I was surprised to find that I could exercise alone. It turns out that I don't need to join an exercise class to workout. I discovered that I actually enjoy working out alone, and I can learn from a YouTube exercise clip!

Being open, flexible, and loving the unknown has really helped me stay positive and, in turn, allowed me to support those who needed it.

 

When you think about the work you are doing, and the children and families you are serving, what concerns you the most now and for the next period?
I am definitely concerned about how children will cope in these challenging times. We understand how children develop and what children need to grow holistically. With this pandemic, one most important elements is missing, human touch. The concept of sharing also has to be changed for the time being.

I worry that children may be affected by increased stress or anxiety in their home as parents struggle with their own concerns and worries.

Care, teamwork, and giving emotional support through a hug or a touch is irreplaceable. Our children need these elements to thrive emotionally! Children need to grow up in a positive, safe environment to understand empathy and the importance of working together.

I hope the families understand the importance of social interaction for their children and how it benefits their mental health. I hope they continue to allow the children to have time to play with their friends as they learn so many life skills during play, like negotiation, problem-solving, and creativity. With some safety measures put in place during playdates, I believe children can continue to develop skills needed for adulthood!

 

What would you like people to know and understand about your work during the COVID-19 pandemic?
During the COVID- 19 pandemic, my organizational values of Care, Holistic Education, Excellence, and Relationship continue to align with any changes that we need to make in times like this.

These values apply to the staff, children, and the families within the Chiltern community.

I continue to support my five centre leaders and their teams, both physically and emotionally. I had weekly meetings to keep in touch with the leaders to make sure they are doing well. These meetings are also a safe space for them to share their challenges and for us to find solutions.

These meetings are an opportunity to find out how everyone is doing and gather feedback about how things have worked for everyone. We are learning to work differently in this pandemic. We had a situation where a staff member needed time away to cope, and we allowed her time off to support her needs. If anyone is feeling low or stressed on our staff, it is my role to determine with my leaders how we can support them.

During this pandemic, our governing body, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), has frequently sent updates on measures that they put in place. Whenever there are new measures, my centre leaders and I discuss to make sure we all get the same information. I also write emails to keep parents updated on measures and inform them about what needs to be done.

I also keep in touch with my centre leaders to see whether any children are in distress and find strategies or resources to help children. In a continued effort to provide a Holistic Education, I shared perspectives with my centre leaders on how our Home Base Learning needs to be age-appropriate and create opportunities for children to be confident in performing activities on their own.

Maintaining a positive relationship with parents is an important part of my role. To support families, I look at the needs of each individual family. I review policies that might need adapting to support them during these difficult times. Right now, this is generally related to fees. If parents need clarification about our curriculum, we meet with them virtually to provide clarity.

In a broader sense, I also work closely with the various departments and my Group Managing Director, Fiona Walker, to review strategies to sustain the business during this pandemic. We are always open to looking at new ways of working and different ways to innovate.

I have found that being open and embracing the unknown is key to staying relevant and sustainable in this pandemic.


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