“This is more than just a job”: The preschool teacher who wants to give her kids the love she never had
Joey Tang // September 2, 2020, 4:18 pm
All photos courtesy of Joey Tang.
“You cannot change your past, but you can change your future.” This was what my brother always used to tell me when I was young.
As a kid, I grew up without my dad. Initially he went overseas for work to provide for the family. But then his relationship with my mum got strained due to their differences, so he left. Growing up, I often envied children with loving fathers.
I used to feel unworthy and unlovable, which led me to bottle up my feelings and cut relationship ties easily whenever there were bad arguments. To protect myself, I built thick walls around my heart. But behind those walls was just a girl desiring for love.
It was during secondary school that I came to know of Christ’s love for me through my church’s annual youth camps. God pursued me relentlessly (Matthew 18:12) and showed me that His love for me never fails.
The old me would wallow in self-pity because of my lack of an earthly father. But the new me chose to focus on my Heavenly Father, and He began to grow my “love tank” for other people, particularly young children.
Then came my O-Levels, where my results were not great. As an ISFJ, one of the recommended jobs is teaching in the early years. But I had scored 26 points – double the minimum cut-off point for early childhood education.
On the last day to register for polytechnic, my teacher suddenly came up to me and encouraged me to just try anyway. That day, I decided to pray and hastily submitted my applications to 2 polytechnics for their early childhood and child psychology courses.
Eventually, I got into an early childhood education programme through the Direct Polytechnic Admissions exercise, which I believe was a result of God’s provision and guidance!
That was when I realised that I had the ability to make a difference somewhere, somehow. And that special place would be a preschool.
I’ve been teaching in a preschool for over a year, and I’m finding joy and fulfilment in living out His purpose for me in the early childhood sector.
I get to provide love and warmth to all my little friends, especially to those who don’t get to receive much from their parents. This could be through hugs, words of encouragement, or simply being physically and emotionally present. I also enjoy the interaction I get to have with their parents.
Earlier in March, I had the opportunity to speak to a parent due to an incident in class where one of the boys hit his friend’s nose. Luke* has speech delay, so he is still learning to express his thoughts and emotions appropriately.
Over a phone call with Luke’s mum, I shared with her my observation that Luke would often hit his peers whenever he felt upset or saw someone exhibiting a wrong behaviour like snatching someone else’s toy.
I was also prompted by the Holy Spirit to share with her that the environment at home plays a part in how he perceives the world around him. For instance, if he is often disciplined physically whenever he exhibits a wrong behaviour, he would think that it is right for him to do it when he sees someone else behaving wrongly too.
After that conversation, my relationship with Luke’s mum went a step further. At times she would confide in me about her parenting struggles, but most of the time she would share with me her joys of witnessing Luke’s milestones and we would celebrate them together.
The most beautiful thing that bloomed out of our friendship was that she agreed to come to church with me during Phase 3 of Singapore’s safe re-opening when I felt led to ask her if she was visiting any church at that point of time!
Another joy I have from this journey is forming a special bond with Luke and his family. It really warmed my heart when they invited me over for a home-cooked dinner and Luke’s dad told me: “I know you love him. You can see him as your little brother too.”
Ultimately, this is more than just a job. It is a ministry I serve God in.
I believe that my purpose in this season of my life is to minister to children who are non-believers and/or who come from broken families, especially those with special needs.
What I can do as a teacher and child of God is to reach out to them and their parents, to find out their needs, understand them and be a friend.
By empathising with them and going the extra mile, by being a listening ear and offering a caring touch, I hope that they are able to see that I am different – and that I do what I do because I have a Father that loves me.
Working in a faith-based kindergarten has also given me the liberty to pray with the little ones, from the smallest requests such as “Jesus, help us to find our water bottles!” to the biggest ones such as “Jesus, get rid of COVID-19 – we want everyone to be safe!”
I love being able to journey with the children daily, to witness their growth and achievements, and to touch their lives. One of my greatest joys is also building friendships with them.
I know that if not for God, I would never have the capacity to pour out so much love into these little ones. I love because He first loved me.
*Names have been changed for confidentiality.
Joey was also featured in our National Day 2020 video “The hands that built Singapore”. You can watch the full video below or read excerpts from the interview here.
THINK + TALK
- How might your past be holding you back from living the abundant life that Jesus promised (John 10:10)? Are there any walls that you’ve built around yourself?
- Have you discovered God’s purpose for your life? Are you living it out?
- If you’re a child of God, can others see that you are different?