All In A Day's Work: Child's play
Donner Lee Ling-yuen, head of department for early learners at Kids' Gallery, feels her job unites her passions of dance, art and children.
I started at Kids' Gallery about five years ago and am now head of department for the early learners. The early learners are aged anywhere from one to 2? years and this is the age range that I specialise in - though I have taught all ages at different times.
I started as a teaching assistant because I don't have a teaching degree. After a while I was able to become a lead teacher. At first I worked as a 'PA teacher' in the performing arts department and then I moved on to visual arts. Later I went to work with the early learners, which is where I am now.
My degree is in dance and art but I have never had a job where I could really use all of my creativity before, so this felt perfect for me. Here, I can use my choreography and all my artistic methods.
I normally arrive at work around 8.30am and start to set up my first class which starts at 9.45am. This means that I have my class list with all the children to be in that class and I set up all the things that I am planning to do in that class. This usually takes about half an hour and then I go back to my office, check my e-mails and prepare other things for the day.
On average I teach three classes a day, which doesn't seem much, but then I spend the rest of the time preparing materials and having meetings to work out the new curriculum. I try to teach all the different classes that I have in my department so that I can stay in touch with them. I think it's important that the co-ordinators teach their own pieces of curriculum so that they know what works and what doesn't. If we see things are too complicated or not working, then we make adjustments for next time.
Several months in advance we plan our classes. And right now we are about to do our presentations of the classes that will be taught in September. This means that we think up the ideas, write the curriculum and where necessary make the mock-ups of the things we want the children to create. This material is then sent out to all the other centres so that the teachers who will teach the classes have a visual reference to follow. For instance, if they are doing a 'book start' project, then they will find all the material they need: class plans, materials and demo materials. They just have to get the box out and they will know exactly what they are meant to be doing.
My favourite class to teach is 'creative play' for kids from 16 months to 2? years. It's a mixture of art and movement and it's great fun because it has such nice variety. But I also like teaching the older kids. Each age has its particular challenge. You have to be patient with the young ones. It can be hard if you have a lot of children who are unsettled in the class. But as they start to settle it gets more rewarding.
It's really the kind of job I always wanted without knowing that it existed. It's really perfect for me. There is so much satisfaction in watching the kids develop, seeing the smiles on their faces - it's very rewarding work.