In the blink of an eye, it has been a year since we opened our not-so-new centre at International Plaza. It has been challenging yet encouraging, occasionally daunting yet a hundred percent heartening. I am overwhelmed with emotions thinking about the past year and suffice to say, I am so very blessed that an idea that was originally a leap of faith has blossomed into what it is today.
A Leap of Faith
The Radiant Spectrum school opened in April 2021, in the thick of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The thought of setting up a school had been on my mind for a long time. How would I find students? Is there even a demand for music lessons? More importantly, where do I find like-minded individuals who not only must know music but would also want to work with children with special needs?
I couldn’t shake off the idea. The more time that passed, somehow, the urgency of this project became greater and greater. It was a classic case of “If not you, then who? If not now, then when?” And so, I decided – it’s now or never. The Radiant Spectrum opened at International Plaza in April 2021.
Six weeks in, we were hit with our first challenge. MOE announced that physical classes for all children must be suspended. Lessons must be moved online, otherwise, suspended. We scrambled to figure out the best way to conduct online lessons for our children with special needs and shared our experience here. We even hosted an online concert for Andrew, a truly heartwarming experience in the midst of a pandemic.
But what was not talked about were the challenges we faced as a team, and as a founder. Not all students were able to transition to online classes – meltdowns ensued, and parents were frazzled. As a school, we made the decision not to charge fees for students who would miss lessons due to the lockdown. Behind the scenes, I was worried sick. How was I to make rent? Payroll? Utilities?
Our landlord graciously gave us a rental discount the first time we went into lockdown. This allowed us the time to build up our capabilities as a school and avoided having to cut payroll (phew!). When Phase 2 Heightened Alert occurred in September and we had to suspend lessons yet again, this time, we did not need any rent support – and yes, we still did not cut payroll.
Building a Team
In a way, I am thankful for the trials we were put through as a result of the pandemic. It was through the dark and difficult moments that our team of teachers found support and developed trust in one another.
The highlight of my past year is definitely watching our team of teachers grow. Our team is truly a motley crew of teachers, an unusual group of educators who have found the joyous intersection of passion and purpose in our work. When I first started teaching music to children with special needs, I felt so alone. I almost thought I was crazy for going down this path. Today, I have colleagues whom I immensely respect, on this journey of building a school together. You know what? I think they are crazy too.
This past year, I learned 3 lessons:
- You are more resilient than you think.
- You can impact more people than you know.
- It all starts with a thought.
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”Helen Keller
Through The Radiant Spectrum, we hope to expand our impact and give back to the special needs community. Last Christmas, we purchased gifts from BeadbyBead, a small enterprise that was set up for Aisha and Yueting, two adult girls with autism who are unable to seek employment in the open market. They create artwork in the comforts of their home, enabling them to lead a purposeful life.
We also seek opportunities for our students to showcase their talents and explore where music can take them. In February 2022, our student, Jarene, participated in a contest to write a jingle for Juice Stories. Juice Stories is a social enterprise that embraces the employability of older workers and persons with special needs. Jarene’s jingle was selected as the winning entry, a proud moment for her family and teachers at TRS. We continue to look out for opportunities to support or partner with organisations that can positively impact the special needs community in Singapore and we urge our friends and family to do so as well.
Finally, this year, The Radiant Spectrum began teaching at SPED schools, to provide music classes and CCA programmes. Through schools, we are able to reach more children and share with them the joy of learning music. We are also humbly reminded that our own learning never ends. As we work with more students, we learn more and more about autism and other learning needs, increasing our teaching experience and our toolkit of teaching strategies.
We would not be here today if not for the parents who believed in us, especially in the beginning, when we were just starting out and had nothing to show for, but everything to prove. Thank you for the opportunity to work with your children, it is an honour and a privilege. Teaching your children and watching them thrive and grow, brings us so much joy. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for all of us!