Childhood is a beautiful and happy phase in a child's life that should be nurtured and cherished. When we see the world through a child's eyes, we experience it like no other. Their constant wonder and curiosity inspire us every day. We find out more from principal of EtonHouse Sentosa, Lisa Marie on how being around children constantly has impacted her life.
Lisa is from Wales, United Kingdom and began her education journey 16 years ago, working with children from birth to three years in a nursery school in the UK. She began as a teacher when she came to Singapore and moved up to take the position of assistant principal at EtonHouse Outram and vice-principal at 718 Mountbatten road. She then took a strong understanding of the EtonHouse culture and curriculum to EtonHouse Claymore, and now to the Sentosa campus as principal of the school.
You can listen to the podcast here.
What does children's day mean to you?
Every year when we see this day drawing near, we see it is an opportunity for us to stop, pause, reflect and celebrate children. I recently read a wonderful quote that reminds us that children are miracles. The quote reminds us to reflect on creating environments, interactions and an atmosphere that is worthy of a miracle. Hence, every Children Day’s is a reminder of the ways we should be interacting with and appreciating children all every day, all year for having crossed the threshold into the schools with us.
What do you think is most important for children?
I believe the most important thing for children is that they feel a deep sense of belonging when they are in our care. I always reflect with our teachers that we are highly privileged. Families are entrusting their children, the most precious thing in their world in our care every day. Hence the most important thing for children is that they have a strong sense of security when they are with us. When they feel that strong sense of self, they can build their confidence, take risks and try new things. They will then excel in all other areas of development. Relationships and reciprocal rapport are important.
We have often heard the term ‘Image of Child’-what does it mean and why is it so important in our interactions with children?
It is something that anchors all of our practices at EtonHouse. For us, Image of Child is beyond a statement. It is a way of being and a way of seeing children. We view children through a lens of competency. We have a choice with regards to whatever pair of glasses we put on when we choose to view children. If we see children as being adorable, we would lean towards treating them with more vulnerability. We may not allow them to take as many risks in their environment and may do a lot more for them rather than, with them. If we put on a pair of glasses and we see children as competent, able and full of potential, we would do a lot more with children rather than for children.
Self-help tasks become a part of their routine. For example, helping to set the dining table for lunch, running an errand together with their teacher or reshelving the classroom. With that, we empower children throughout the day and show that they're a valued citizen in the classroom, and the school. They are very much a part of that at EtonHouse where they do everything together with us and feel highly valued.
How do you think childhood has changed over the years and does it look different in different countries?
Generally, children themselves are pretty stable and the sense of them being curious and wanting to explore and learn happens everywhere and anywhere. It has been this way since the past and remains so. However, what has changed is the world around children.
We have all noticed that the world now runs on a much faster pace. Everyone wants things to be more efficient and more streamlined. Technology plays a big part in our world at the moment. The world around children is constantly changing, and sometimes it infiltrates children.
Taking education into consideration, there might be an inclination towards us wanting children to do things faster and quicker. However, we should slow down and instead rely on child development and research to guide us in what children should be doing and the experiences that they should have because they only get one chance at childhood. This is an opportunity for us to be advocates for children and prioritise opportunities for them to build their confidence and self-esteem. To build wonderful language and communication skills and an opportunity to test and try out new ideas through our inquiry approach. We can either rush children through education by mirroring the pace of the world outside, or we can slow down, delve deeper and meet their needs. I feel the education system is in a juxtaposition with the world and we're constantly advocating for children's rights. It needs to slow down and value time.
If you could change one thing for children and around the world, what would that be?
If I could wave a magic wand, I would love for all children to be gifted the access to literature, which would be books; storybooks, be it fact or fiction books because a book holds an amazing amount of potential for children. If children are going through personal struggles, it allows them to become lost in another world and to transform themselves with their imagination- to dream, to marvel, to wonder and to see the possibilities out there. Books are highly educational, they empower children with rich vocabulary.
Books offer us abundant knowledge about how the world works, about history, the present and the future. Regardless of their backgrounds and their financial resources, we should support families around the world with access to literature through various mediums like pop-up libraries in schools, different community drives and outreach projects.
When we gift children with this amazing resource, it will help them in many different areas of their development. If I could, I would gift all children with books.
We should blend in this idea that books are equally as valuable, if not more valuable than a toy because of the different possibilities that it offers. Often, a toy is one dimensional where I feel that a book could open up a whole world for a family.
As a parent and an educator, what advice would you give to other parents and educators out there?
As an educator and a mom, I view things as quality versus quantity.
I measure the quality of time that I spend with my son rather than feeling guilty about the quantity of time spent. Many working parents often connect with me and we dialogue around the same topic. They often wonder how they can give the best to their children with the amount of time they have. We discuss ways to draw the fullest potential from the small pockets of time that we have together and how that could potentially be much stronger than spending eight hours together that wasn’t significant. I recently read an article where they empower parents to think about the first 10 minutes that your child wakes up in the morning and the last 10 minutes before they go to bed at night. You may not know but that can remain in your child's memory bank for a very long time. Those are the times when they're more emotionally aware and alert as well. Therefore, when my son wakes up in the morning, I try to have a wonderful conversation with him about the day ahead and include plenty of eye contact.
This happens with the absence of digital devices, with me being purely present for him. At the end of the day, before he goes to bed, we engage in a story, a board game of his choice, or a conversation together if he’d want to talk some things through. I have noticed that these 10-minute sessions at the beginning and end of the day mean the world to him. At the same time, it eases my guilt as a working mum in the sense that I feel that I am giving him my full presence when I can.