Many of you may recognise Sharon as one of our founders, but did you know that she’s also an educational therapist? In today’s post, we have Sharon to share more about the work she does, her own parenting experiences, and what motivates her in her quest to help underprivileged children!
Please introduce yourself & the work you do!
I’m Sharon, an educational therapist and a mother of 2 girls. I was an MOE teacher for 3 years. After I gave birth to my elder daughter, she was often ill, so I decided to quit MOE to look after her. I later got into educational therapy with children when someone came to ask me if I wanted to teach again, this time, children with needs. I’ve never looked back since.
What do you do as an educational therapist?
In the mornings, I go to a pediatric clinic and teach the children there and I work from home in my home office in the afternoons. I intervene or remediate students with literacy issues such as reading, writing or spelling. I used to work in this social service organisation that had educational therapy services to help the underprivileged children.
What motivated your desire to help underprivileged children?
While working in this social service organisation, I met a 6-year-old in K2, who was swearing in Hokkien vulgarities half the time in school. I realised in all of that ‘macho-ness’ he had, he couldn’t read. He’s K2, and he couldn’t read. He was masking himself with all these “I’m a hero, I bully people” actions. I felt really miserable. “How can any child be in this kind of situation?”. So I embarked on a journey of helping him to read.
By the end of the year, he started reading. He became a different person, a much happier and a more confident one. He is the reason why I continued teaching. Although, I've since left that organisation, every year, whatever I can do to help the underprivileged, I’ll just try. Even for my private students, whose parents have their incomes halved, or even lost their jobs during the Covid situation, I’ll tell them, “Just bring the child, I’ll half my fees too.” I think what drives me most is to see these children get the help that they need. As long as they want to learn, I’ll teach them.
What are some of the more common learning difficulties that your students face?
Most of the children I see struggle with reading. No matter how many enrichment classes they have gone to, they are still unable to pick up this skill. Reading is effortful, not just simply reversing of letters like b and d. They display signs of pure exhaustion just from reading 2 lines of words.
Others struggle with spelling. Simple words like ‘train’ can look like ‘trian’ or ‘stop’ can look like ‘spot’. They spend days studying for their spelling tests and sometimes still can’t pass them.
Finally, I have those that struggle with composition writing. They find it difficult to string a simple, coherent paragraph together. And some others struggle with writing sentences that make sense.
What are some challenges you faced teaching children with learning or behavioural difficulties?
Some children learn better through visual aids, others through games and fun. Because each child is so unique, I will adjust my teaching style to suit the child’s needs. This takes time and lots of observation and parental input so that I know how to plan my lessons accordingly.
Behavioral difficulties always stem from a heart issue. Children may be frustrated at not being able to perform even though they know they are smart. Some are bullied or laughed at constantly. During such times, I just stop teaching and talk to them. I’d spend some time working through the knots in their hearts. It could be a very bad day, they could have just gotten scolded by their parents, or they could have been bullied in school. Only when that knot is untied, then can they learn!
What do you like about your job?
There’s never a dull day! The children I meet are so interesting that my brain is always thinking about how else I can be a better teacher for them. I mean, how often do you get an ASD boy pointing his toy gun at you and tell you to freeze ‘cos WWIII is coming? HAHA! Or feeling frustrated together with another for scoring full marks in Math but failing English?
How has your experience contributed to the creation of our products?
I used all sorts of materials out there, be it American-based or UK-based. However, I always find that there is a lack because we are Singaporeans and we have a unique form of English too! So I’ll show Hsin-Ee and April the materials that I think are really good for the children, and we try to recreate them to fit the local system.
Advice for parents of children with learning difficulties?
Trust that instinct in you if you do sense that something isn’t quite right with your child. There is no harm in seeking professional help early. Early intervention has made a huge difference for many parents and their special needs children.
We hope Sharon’s stories have given you some insight into what to look out for in your child, especially if you’re a parent yourself!