At LFS, we offer families the opportunity to have their two-year-old children joining our school, to promote their development prior to the start of K1. How does it work? Why can it be beneficial? We tell you everything you need to know about our pre-kindergarten class (TPS).
Considered a first collective educational experience, our TPS welcomes a maximum of 12 children on each campus, to encourage socialisation. Our young students share the class with K1 (PS) students, as both levels follow the same learning topics. Our TPS is a class and not a nursery school.
The class is supervised by a French teacher and two assistants bilingual in both French and Chinese. They follow the objectives of the French school system while adapting to the pace of each child.
We welcome children and their parents every morning, and school starts at 8:00.
Our TPS students essentially work on their vocabulary, their listening skills, and their mobility through art, language and physical activities adapted to their age.
Hello Fara! Being a teacher in pre-kindergarten-K1 (TPS-PS) class is new this year at LFS, what interested you in this position?
I have always worked with children of all ages. I studied sociology to become a social worker. I was a special needs teacher, a school counselor and also taught Grade 1 students for a while. When LFS offered me the opportunity to be a full-time teacher, I didn’t hesitate. It is challenging but it is a real passion of mine so I always try my best to fulfill my mission.
The social industry is close to my personality, and deeply inspires me. I come from Madagascar, and I think my roots are deeply linked with human interactions and the way we educate children. We often hear the saying that it takes a village to raise a child. It makes sense and is really at the core of what being a teacher means.
Being a special needs teacher really opened my eyes and my mindset. There are a lot of things we ignore when it comes to children and human beings in general. It is fundamental to try understanding how one sees the world, how one thinks or how one sees him/herself in others’ eyes. What matters to me is to succeed teaching children something, I often ask myself what I can do to make sure children love being at school and love seeing their teacher.
It is probably part of teachers’ pride (Laughs), to hope to be a part of who the child becomes. I wish to give the very best of myself so that my students can become extraordinary human beings.
How does a day in TPS go?
Being in a class with two levels is great, because the youngest learn from the older students. Good habits are encouraged, we teach children how to behave in a classroom and what it means to be an autonomous student.
Our frame is different from the frame children have at home. In TPS, we arrive in the morning, we greet everyone, which is essential, we put our name on the board to confirm we are present, and then we explore the classroom for about 35 minutes. Students are free to play during that time, it is a moment of exchange and discussion.
After that, we begin the class by sitting down, listening to the teacher and other classmates, we discuss what we are going to do, which takes about 20 minutes. We do activities and adapt to these different routines and rhythms. Socialising and learning to accept doing activities we may not want to do at first are key in TPS. Learning starts with feeling good and safe in class, with the teacher and classmates.
Children around 2 are focused on themselves, discovering who they are and what they are capable of. Accepting others can be difficult at that time. For example, it can be hard for a child to share a toy or let someone else having a toy first. Parents often think going to school equals learning how to count and to read, but it is so much more than that, especially between the age of 2 and 3. Learning social skills will ensure them to have a successful academic journey and navigate adulthood. At school, they learn to adapt to a new environment with a different setting and different rules. They learn to be away from familiar figures, and to give their trust to other people. It is a big milestone that requires time, courage, self-confidence, and support.
What are the main axes you follow in your teaching approach?
Our TPS is part of our kindergarten, even though the focus is mostly on socialisation. We have guidelines coming from the French system with a programme we must follow to develop our students’ skills throughout the year.
Personally, my approach is a result of my studies, my experience and my own development as a mother. I find ways to bring children to open to others and to build self-esteem and confidence. I let my students experience with their senses and their natural abilites. I show them how to be kind to one another. I let them be involved in the process, and have a guided choice. Having a choice is motivating, we are more engaged, eager to learn and finish a task.
We use a lot of visuals and images to facilitate memorising. It is reassuring for young children to visualise things, even when there is a language barrier. The basis of education relies on this key principle.
Let’s not forget that a lot of our students are Chinese speakers. I teach activities in French for the most part, but when I feel that a child seems lost, I explain things simply in Chinese. It is great to see children smiling because they realise that someone understands and includes them. I pay attention to including everyone so that each of my student is on an equal footing with everyone else. This is very important to me.
We are a French school, but cultural references are very different for our Chinese speaking students. When we started school about 2 months ago, I had children who didn’t speak a word of French, and who now start expressing themselves through words and simple sentences, because they feel more confident and dare trying.
What are the challenges you face when working with young children?
The language barrier is a challenge in its cultural and emotional aspects. A lot of things are hidden behind a language. I had the experience with one of my students, who was mostly raised by his grandparents. When things were upsetting him, I was not capable to console him at first, he would not understand what my intention was and would reject me. I had to find a way to connect with him in a way he would understand and accept. It can be hard to make a child feel comfortable in class. But little by little, he learnt to know me and has made a lot of progress since then.
I do a lot of games where I make students laugh, I am very opened with the fact that I also make mistakes and I apologise when I forget something. It is very important to show you are human and not so different than them, to build trust.
Even if you don’t speak Chinese for instance, you can connect with a child on another level. It is a real challenge to work in a school in a foreign country, but it is not impossible, and it is rewarding.
What makes you the proudest in your job?
Little victories are the most important. I am myself the mother of a child with autism. What you learn as a special needs teacher is that there is no big victory. The little successes which accumulate are what creates progress. At the beginning of the school year, I had a student who was a little bit afraid of me, and now, she always tries her best to make short sentences in French. We see students who used to cry two months ago who now look for me when they arrive in class. Students become independent and autonomous.
In your opinion, what are the advantages for a child to join TPS?
For their psychological and emotional development, we teach children to feel comfortable at school, in a social setting: I can make new friends, I can express myself, I can make myself heard. There are rules with the teacher, a schedule, we know where we are going and what the objectives are. It is reassuring for a child to have a routine. We tell ourselves we are in class and thus we are ready to learn.
We prepare our students for future academic objectives but if we are not ready to welcome this phase, we will not be in a good place to do so. We build the child’s self-esteem and self-confidence to try and do their best. In TPS, we learn how to live together, at school, to become a student.