03 Nov Passion Beyond Boundaries
Dika College Diploma in Early Childhood Education alumnus, Wong Siow May,
shares her experience working in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
A new beginning
Wong Siow May graduated with a Diploma in Early Childhood Education (ECE) from Dika College in 2011. After working as a kindergarten teacher for about a year, she continued her studies to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education.
In the year 2016, Wong participated in a cross-culture mission training organised by her church. The event brought her to Cambodia. Little did she realise that this would be the start of a new beginning.
“I felt a sense of purpose working with children in Cambodia. As my visit was about to end, I prayed for a reason to come back. Coincidentally, I saw a job opening at Kinderland Cambodia which I immediately applied for,” said Wong.
“A few days later, I received an email from Kinderland for an interview. After two rounds of interviews, I was hired for a position as Principal of the school,” said Wong who also shared that she found that to be a big responsibility.
“I expressed my preference for a direct and more hands-on position which enables me to work directly with the children. After some discussion, they offered me the position of Head Teacher,” shared Wong.
“I stepped out of my comfort zone to take up this offer because I was at a stage of my life that I wanted new challenges; I wanted to see the world and most importantly, I wanted to work with children which is something that I am so passionate about,” Wong added.
Eldest of three siblings, 32-year-old Wong explained that the scope of her work involved working with children and managing teachers of the preschool at the same time. With an enrolment of slightly over 100 preschool children, she heads a team of six teachers.
“In educating a child, I work very closely with parents to ensure that they are aligned with the teachers. Seeing the proud faces of parents when they see their child’s progress and achievement gives me immense satisfaction,” said Wong.
An exciting responsibility
COLLABORATION: The Kinderland team in Cambodia which consists of management, teachers and teaching assistants.
According to Wong, over and above being teacher for a ‘baby class’ (two to three-year-old toddlers), she also plans daily duty roster schedules for teachers, manages the attendance of teachers and liaises with parents to give updates on and discuss their child’s performance at school.
EXCITING RESPONSIBILITY: Bringing the children on a learning excursion to the bakery to learn about how things are made.
“I have to thank the hands-on experience I gained from the Diploma in Early Childhood Education (ECE) at Dika College. The leadership skills that I learnt at Dika have helped me greatly,” Wong said.
Wong added that the pandemic situation has inspired teachers to be more creative in their online teaching approaches. “We play games and engage children in question-and-answer sessions so that it will be a more fun learning experience for the children,” said Wong.
EXCITING RESPONSIBILITY: Online learning during the pandemic – “We play games and engage in question-and-answer sessions for a more fun learning experience.”
Making a difference
Wong also at times volunteers teaching children in the villages of Cambodia as part of her mission work. Due to insufficient teachers and teaching materials at the schools in the villages, Wong finds it important to volunteer her skills and some teaching materials such as flashcards, and arts and crafts items to the children in the villages.
Seeing the children learn and have fun from what she does gives her great satisfaction. It is her way of making a difference for the community by giving her valuable skills back to society.
Step out of your comfort zone
To those aspiring to work across borders, Wong advised the following:
- Step out of your comfort zone to try something new. You will never know if you never try.
- Do your research and be well informed about opportunities out there.
- Seek advice from seniors who have worked overseas to understand the experiences and challenges faced.
“The work of an educator has no boundaries and can take you places. With passion and purpose, one can achieve anything in life,” Wong added.