Linda Tan and Poh Ya Nee who volunteer at Sunbeam Place @ Children's Society
The journey had many trials-and-errors but it is fruitful.
We volunteer at Sunbeam Place @ Children's Society, an approved home for abused and neglected children in need of protection or whose parents are unable to provide proper care.
We started our first programme in 2007. It was initially crafted to build confidence, hand-body coordination and attention span through various activities from music and movement, speech and drama and story-telling.
However, after a few sessions, we realised that the programme was failing. Our young learners were running around and were busy competing to get our attention by doing inappropriate behaviours such as pushing and shouting. The sessions were chaotic and raised our immediate concern that these young learners’ learning was hindered due to inappropriate behaviours.
But, we didn’t give up.
After reviewing the curriculum, we came out with the Thoughtful Minds© programme. The objective of this programme is to equip the children (whom we term as Thoughtful Juniors in this programme) with soft skills such as respecting friends and teachers, sitting appropriately, good listening, sharing, asking nicely etc.
The programme is based on a non-competitive system. Each Thoughtful Junior has a personalised checklist which they use to reflect upon their own behaviour for the session. They also have an individualised rewards chart that is dependent on their own effort and determination to display the soft skills that we inculcate in sessions.
In this one-year journey, our Thoughtful Juniors have demonstrated better behaviours during sessions. We can now complete all the activities planned for each session. We saw better classroom behaviours, turn-taking and friendship among our Thoughtful Juniors, in particularly Xi Xi and He Fei. Xi Xi is more ready to admit his mistakes bravely and He Fei is putting in more effort to use his speech to communicate as well as copy words from the board to his task sheets without the help of dotted lines.
The most valuable and uplifting experience for us was when some of our Thoughtful Juniors learnt to ignore the misbehaviours of the other children and continued to stay focused on their tasks. Seeing our Thoughtful Juniors progressing gradually as well as seeing their smiles and hearing their laughter are our main motivation to work with them.
The journey had many trials-and- errors but it is fruitful. Now our next challenge is can our Thoughtful Juniors apply what they had learnt to their other peers at Sunbeam Place @ Children's Society as well as peers in their respective school? We think so and we will continue to work with the children.