The 3rd Enabling Masterplan is a five-year roadmap for the community and the Singapore Government to work together as a caring community. It paved the way for a diverse proposal for students with dyslexia in mainstream schools and institutes of higher learning (IHLs) to receive the support and guidance they need as they go through the various educational and life stages.

In line with this plan and the Dyslexia Association of Singapore’s (DAS) belief in professional development as an essential practice amongst their staff, it has continued to ensure that the tradition of continuous learning is practiced. Professional development strengthens the commitment of staff and reduces skills gaps by upskilling the workforce. The DAS recently welcomed a new batch of Educational Therapists who had a first-hand experience of this practice, in the training that they received to equip them to deliver the literacy programme to our group of students.

Our Dyslexia & the Essential Literacy Approach (DELA) training was conducted in June 2021 to equip our new Educational Therapists to develop the skills to understand the profile of our students and apply the theoretical knowledge of the MLP Integrated Curriculum and the Orton-Gillingham principles to their teaching. The new Educational Therapists attended lectures and practicum which consists of co-teaching and full teaching experiences. The new Educational Therapists were guided individually, by a Supervising Teacher (ST) and a Co-ordinating Teacher (CT) on putting into practice the skills that she has learnt on Lesson planning and lesson delivery in the classroom.

One of our new Educational Therapists who is attached to the Tampines Learning Centre, Ms. Azalea Birch shared with us her journey at the DAS, in a recent interview about her experience.

Azalea Birch

1. Please give a very brief introduction about yourself – what are some of your interests?
I've lived in Singapore for 9 years and I'm now a PR. I'm married to a Singaporean and have a six-year-old son. Prior to Singapore, my husband and I lived in Beijing for about six years, so I can speak some Mandarin.
My interests include Mindfulness, reading and the tabla, which I learned while growing up in Nepal. I haven't actively played in a few years, but if you put a pair in front of me, I can still produce a decent beat!

2. Please share your background in terms of what you have been doing prior to joining DAS and what led you to consider and finally join the DAS?
I've been teaching for eight years and have focused on teaching literacy skills to preschool and primary school age students for the past three years. I grew increasingly interested in why some of my students struggled, even though they seemed 'normal' overall. This then led to an interest in how I could bridge the gap and teach these struggling students better. This culminated in an opportunity to tutor one of my students one-on-one. I realised that I was in over my head and that I lacked a lot of practical and theoretical knowledge. I decided I needed training and a colleague suggested I look at DAS Academy. Out of curiosity, I checked out the job listings at DAS and saw the one for trainee Edts. I was completely floored that such an opportunity existed and applied!

3. How did you find the DELA training and how did it benefit you?
The DELA training was very comprehensive and intensive. The information we were given in the lectures was important and certainly beneficial. That being said, it was also a bit of information overload, and my mind wasn't able to absorb it all. I think the training would be even better if it were done at a slower pace, although I understand the practical limitations of this.

The practicum was the component that benefited me the most, especially in regards to teaching my own classes. It was through this hands-on experience that what I had learned during the lectures began to fall into place.

4. How was your experience in respect of the training (the challenges and the rewards and interaction with fellow trainees and the people you have met during training)?
Challenges: Managing time and stress! With my schedule filled with lectures and practicum hours, I didn't have much time left for lesson planning and studying. When I was at home, I wanted to spend as much time with my son as I could, plus there was housework to be done. So, I had to do my lesson planning and studying late into the night, after my son had gone to bed. Four weeks of this was quite grueling! I found myself getting very stressed and anxious. Reflecting on the experience now, I realise that managing my time better and not striving for a 'perfect' outcome would have gone a long way in reducing my stress level.

Rewards: I loved getting to know my fellow trainees. We were all in the same boat and were a source of support for one another. I also felt very well supported by my lecturers, as well as my ST and CT. My ST and CT were both so kind and encouraging. They went out of their way to lend me a hand and answer my questions, even when I messaged or emailed them at night! I remember one incident where I emailed my lesson plan to Bella, my ST, around midnight. I was not expecting a response until the next day. However, when I woke up in the morning, I saw that she had replied at 2am!

The Dyslexia Association of Singapore would like to congratulate Azalea for her successful completion of the DELA training and we look forward to more contributions from her to the DAS cause of helping dyslexic people and those with specific learning differences achieve.

Azlina Ismail
Educational Therapist and Edutech I-rep, Main Literacy Programme
RETA Member
Tampines Learning Centre

Learn more about Azlina!