Shane Lim is a preschool teacher and a volunteer with Harvest Kidz. He shares with City News his passion for teaching children, which led him into the traditionally female-dominated industry.
It is not hard to imagine why children gravitate towards Shane Lim. With his wide smile, this 32-year-old City Harvest Church member comes across as warm, friendly and jovial. He is among the 1 percent of male preschool teachers in Singapore, and one so notable that he has been featured twice in the local news in his eight years on the job.
Shane also serves in CHC’s children’s ministry, Harvest Kidz. We sat down with him to find out how he discovered his calling in the children’s ministry, and what drives him to continue in a job usually held by women.
WHEN GOD SPOKE
Shane has always loved interacting with kids. Apart from their obvious cuteness, they bring Shane a joy that cannot be measured.
“Kids are so innocent, always so full of faith—vastly different from adults, who are prone to lament about their bad days, leading to a downward spiral,” he says. “Kids would say things like ‘It is okay, just try again’ or ‘You did it well!’”
This was one of the many reasons why he decided to join Harvest Kidz, where he found his calling to be a preschool teacher.
After graduating with a Diploma in Biotechnology, Shane started working as a sales associate at a first aid company. His job was to teach first aid to students from primary school to tertiary institutions. At that same period, he started serving in Harvest Kidz.
One year later, during a cell group meeting, God prompted him to study early childhood education.
“God, are You sure?” was Shane’s first response. He never wanted to be a teacher because he was never the best student. He used to joke that if he ever became a teacher, as punishment, his students would behave the same way he did as a student.
Nevertheless, he asked God for further confirmation of His word. That came at a children’s birthday party, when the children started playing with him once he arrived. God reminded Shane that he was gifted with kids.
A final validation came in the form of a friend’s comment when Shane shared the prompting God had given him. His friend said, “I can see that fire in your eyes that you had when you first became a Christian.” With that, Shane made the decision to switch careers and attained his early childhood education diploma from Seed Institute.
STEPPING INTO NEW GROUNDS
Through the recommendation of a fellow Harvest Kidz teacher, Shane got to know someone who was keen to hire a male teacher. “It really was a God-given opportunity and an open door,” he said recounting how he managed to land a job in the early childhood industry.
On the challenges of stepping into a new industry, Shane said, “The biggest hurdles were parents.” His boss would often receive questions such as why the school had to hire male teachers and if their kids would be safe.
Thankfully, Shane worked the morning shift and had the opportunity to interact with the parents when they dropped their children off at school. Through such interaction, the parents eventually warmed up to Shane and started to trust that he would take good care of their children. Some parents even started opening up to Shane about their children.
As he was used to working in an all-male environment in his previous job, Shane’s next challenge was learning to work with his female colleagues. “Understanding women’s logic is tough,” he admits. “The way they think is very different from men.” Eight years into the job, he is still learning to work with them. He is, however, grateful to God that his colleagues are supportive.
SETTING THE FOUNDATION OF CHARACTER
As a teacher, Shane focuses more on building the child’s character and values. He believes that the first six years of a child’s life is the best stage to mould his character and values. The never-give-up attitude, perseverance and good sportsmanship are a few of the things he wants to cultivate in the kids.
He instils these values through actions rather than words, explaining that children at that age do not have a strong understanding of words yet. “You could say something to a kid a million and one times, but he or she will still not understand what you are saying,” he explains.
To children whom he knows are Christians, he would ask, “Is this something Jesus would do?” or “Is this something we learn in Sunday school?”.
With other kids, he would show them how to show love and care for their friends. As they are at the age where they would only think of themselves, Shane would often use actions to demonstrate to them what care looks like.
At the beginning of the school year, he would take time to communicate with the parents about his approach. He is grateful that they are often receptive to his approach to mould kids’ character more than academics.
One of his most memorable encounters was with a student who would throw tantrums whenever she did not like doing what she was told to do, or if things did not go her way. Shane did not believe in screaming at his students or giving time-outs, so he waited until she calmed herself down before speaking to her about her behaviour. He realised that she was trying to find a way to express herself, and the only way she knew was to throw a tantrum.
“I told her that she needs to give everything a try. If she thinks she can’t do it, just try. If she has never eaten something before, just try,” Shane shared. The word “try” eventually became the class’s motto. The student’s behaviour improved slowly, and her tantrums became shorter.
His takeaway from this experience was to always talk to the kids rather than raising his voice at them.
His patience eventually paid off. The students in that class grew from being reluctant to do anything to become willing to try anything. He felt a sense of achievement that the kids became brave. At their graduation, “rather than (feeling) sad, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy.”
The parents also recognised his efforts. At the end of the year, the parents of the class came together to make a video, thanking him and his teaching partner. Shane admits he had tears in his eyes.
“It is always heartening to see the children grow,” he said with a smile. They came to him as toddlers who were always crying and needing help, and they grew into independent pre-schoolers. Shane is never sad to see them leave the school, and he is happy when he sees them again when they have grown up.
GOD’S WORD KEPT HIM ANCHORED DURING TOUGH TIMES
Jeremiah 29:11 reads, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
This verse was first impressed upon him during a prayer meeting with Harvest Kidz. He had just joined the early childhood industry and was going through a tough time.
“During such times, I wondered if this was really my calling. I would ask God, ‘Did You really call me to the right place or did I hear wrong all those years back?’” Shane admits.
However, whenever moments of doubt creep in, God would always remind him of the verse He gave to him. Looking back, Jeremiah 29:11 had always rung true—whenever he doubted himself, there would be moments of confirmation that he is indeed at the right place.
After that Harvest Kidz prayer meeting, a local newspaper was were looking for a male teacher in the school to be interviewed, and Shane was selected. That reminded him of his calling.
Most recently, Shane went through a personal matter and felt that his job was taking a toll on him. His mind constantly fell on the thought that given the number of years he had worked, he could have been earning much more in another industry.
However, Jeremiah 29:11 kept ringing in his ears. Shortly after that season, he was presented with the opportunity to meet with President Halimah Yacob. Such favour was God’s reminder to him that he was right where He wanted him to be.
Shane says, “Without God, I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t have had all these opportunities nor made a name for myself as a male preschool teacher.”