Ai Tong School's PSG, headed by Mr Edwin Cheng (in black), organises activities to bring families together and build connections.
It's not uncommon to see children hitting the shopping mall during the school holidays. But for Primary 3 pupil Chong Wei Jie of Ai Tong School, the recent June holidays saw him at Thomson Plaza not to browse or buy, but rather to sell. He was participating in an entrepreneurship project on 24 and 25 June 2011 to raise funds for the needy students in his school.
This is just one of many activities organised by the school's Parent Support Group (PSG). PSG chairman Mr Edwin Cheng happily reports on the outcome of this project, "We received a lot of school support and raised $1,800 over two days. Some students were so excited that they asked me if we are having a similar activity in December!"
He adds, "Children have a sense of pride when they see their parents manning the stall and they want to take part too." In Wei Jie's case, having his mother Mrs Ng Bee Bee present boosted his confidence. He relates, "At the booth, when people were looking at a book, I felt shy to tell them how much it costs. It was my mother who encouraged me to tell them the price. I've learnt to speak up."
Building such connections between Ai Tong School, its pupils and their parents is what drives Mr Cheng and his PSG team in planning their activities.
Mr Cheng elaborates, "I see myself as a facilitator in understanding what the school leaders want to achieve and I set out in that direction by translating it into our PSG activities. My philosophy is that it is not just the parent who signs up for the PSG who gets involved. As with the entrepreneurship project, what we're aiming for is to welcome the whole family."
Building confidence and support
Another PSG activity was the Pri 6 Motivational Day, which was held over two days in April this year; Pri 6 pupils and teachers took an hour off their daily routine to enjoy a mouth-watering spread of food, lovingly prepared by PSG volunteers. "We wanted to show our support and appreciation to the students and teachers, both of whom are having a tough year with a lot of pressure, to say that we, as parents, are behind you," Mr Cheng explains. "Our message was, 'We care for you.'"
At the recent entrepreneurship event, Ai Tong School pupils chipped in to raise funds for needy students of the school.
Adds Mrs Ng, who is also the secretary of the PSG, "Some of the parents themselves feel very stressed. Through this interaction, the parents have the chance to reflect and tell themselves, 'Come on, relax, our kids are already very sensitive at this point in time.'" The interaction also spawned new friendships amongst the parents. "Some of them even went on to share cupcake recipes and cooking skills with each other!" Mr Cheng shares. The PSG plans to make the Pri 6 Motivational Day an annual event.
Principal Mr Tan Yap Kin appreciates the PSG's efforts deeply. "The turnout of parent volunteers and the effort that they have invested in running these events so successfully leaves a deep impression on me. Our parents are not only resourceful and talented, but know how to have fun!" he enthuses. "Building a culture of trust and a good relationship between our teachers, the administrative staff and our parents takes time. I believe that the trust and understanding is growing."
A part for everyone
PSG activities help to build pupils' confidence, while encouraging them to contribute to the school.
No doubt, running the PSG can be challenging. "There are times when you get very busy," Mr Cheng acknowledges. "At one time, I was in a transition stage in a new job which made it difficult to conduct PSG meetings. I felt bad as they depended on my involvement." As a testament to the support that the PSG members offer one another, Mrs Ng chimes in, "Everyone is a volunteer and you just do your best. Everybody has ownership."
For parents who are wondering how to juggle their commitments, yet create time for PSG activities, there are various avenues they can consider. "There is a misconception about PSG activities," shares Mr Cheng. "It need not always be something that you must commit to for a specific period per week for a year or even a few months. We also have ad-hoc activities such as the Mid-Autumn Festival where we take charge of gaming booths, as well as celebrations during Teacher's Day, Children's Day and International Friendship Day."
Parent volunteers from the PSG act as role models and cultivate a sense of volunteerism in their children.
Mrs Ng sees other benefits as well. "As a working mum, I really have no idea about the school system. Through interactions with other parents, I learn about common issues, general MOE guidelines and how the school is run. You get to anticipate what's next for your child down the road."
Her involvement in the PSG also overlaps with her desire to contribute to society at large. "The school is one platform you can identify with to start off your social work," she says. The rewards for such endeavours may not be visible, nor come immediately. "But you never know! The principal was saying the next rubber or pineapple tycoon might look back and say, 'Hey, it was this entrepreneurship project that inspired me!'"