The Brain of Forest School Singapore: Germaine

Have any of you heard of the “Coach Germaine Summer Camp”? If you had, you would have met with our Vice Principal Germaine. She pioneered our first Holiday Camp Series in the Summer of 2017. 

I met Germaine in late 2015, at the inclusive camp for typical and atypical children, called Resilience Camp by Insight & Access. We were both understudied and trained under a very special Occupational Therapist, called Anita. Germaine came into the group as one of the youngest there at 17 years old, she was still in JC at that time. She was a blank piece of paper, innocent and blurry. We disturb her quite often. She took it in her stride and really grew through the times there. 

Germaine & Darren with the Experience Team that makes up the Resilience Camp in 2015

One of the key moments I realised her potential, was when she connected with one of our aspergers boys, so seamlessly. The boy, who was having a challenging time, opened up to her instantly. At the moment I felt she must have something special in her heart for a child who is struggling to open up to her. 

Another moment of amazement came when she initiatively prepared a Powerpoint slide for a Game Plan that she was to plan for. She used it to present to the team about what to do and all. At that moment, we were dumbfounded, at her level of initiative and the huge level of potential that is stored in this young lady. 

Germaine joined the Forest School Singapore team at the end 2016, being one of the pioneer batch of coaches. She came into management in 2017, when FSS was growing beyond the size one person could handle on the management side. 

Germaine was the chief for the first ever holiday camp series of FSS. We sat down and planned for 4-hours at a dear friend’s (Vivian) place. We ran through the terms and conditions, the numbers, operation and communication. Basically everything you see in our workshops and camps administration begins there in the small room of the quiet April 2017. 

An example of the planning for “Coach Germaine Summer Camps” in 2017

Germaine teamed up with Rebecca (our current HR manager) and Mindy (current lead of “Forest School @ Lower Peirce”), and ran back-to-back-to-back  camps across the months of June and July. They will always reminisce about those days with thoughts about how tough it was physically and mentally, as much as they took pride in their achievement.

Coach Germaine Summer Camp 2017

Germaine’s journey in FSS was not all rainbow and unicorn. One of the most memorable moments of mistake happened at the end of 2017. She was at that time our enquiry manager (a young one at 18 years old). There was an email conversation with a father of a child in Forest School Saturday session, he was asking for something that entails details in the T&C. Germaine replied to him with reference from the T&C bluntly, and got quite a flurry of displeasure from the father. Her confidence and spirit was dented that time, as she was young and learning. After a little conversation and resolution together with me, we managed to address the issue, but the father was already reconcilable, unfortunately, and decided to withdraw. It was a tough lesson to learn for her and us at FSS, but in hindsight, it was worth every ounce of effort and time now. She learnt so much from that experience that her enquiry management evolved into the quality that it is now.

During her tenure with us as Enquiry Manager and Vice Principal, she has always juggled FSS work with her SMU undergrad studies and internships. Imagine that over the course of 5 years. She is a rare gem I must say. 

As the admin manager, she showed her strong ability to manage a large volume of enquiry while also tentatively improving the admin system to match with the volume.

Quietly she is the pillar of leadership behind the whole administrative system of FSS. 

Germaine was promoted to Vice Principal in 2018 (at a young age of 19 years old). As VP she supervises the Human Resource and Administrative management Teams, guiding them with her experience and strengths. At that point, Germaine hardly appears in any session. She is like our faceless leader in the backend of FSS.

Team discussion and sharing in the early 2017

The magic of Germaine in FSS comes from her generous and grounded personality. She almost automatically connects with all our children with special needs. It’s like she has a gift for it that is untrainable. 

Her kind soul shines brightly in how she gives in to almost all the special requests that come to her gate. She is always giving the benefit of doubt and understanding to others, even though I may disagree with some. But I do trust her, so we usually follow her decision (she is very persistent and convincing too). 

Another asset which shows up in her personality is her brain. It is so logical she can’t fathom some emotions sometimes. Haha. However, she is almost always level headed and objective, giving FSS a foundation to build on that is tangible. She is almost the opposite to myself, where I am emotional and driven by gut feeling, she is logical and driven by evidence of needs. She provides a wider perspective to FSS.

In FSS, I tend to make decisions based on feelings and instinct. It often dumbfounds Germaine. She will go “Feeling again? No clear reason? Idiot.”, and then she will study the decision and help to detail the evidence and reasons behind it. She complements the fluid way of FSS so well, it seems seamless even though there is so much effort behind it. 

As Vice Principal and Principal, we have to make so many major decisions together and also scrutinise each other’s performance. Some of them are so difficult that we end up quarreling up during our calls and check-ins. I remember once when we were deliberating about an investment and involvement into a new project, and she was scrutinising it so hard as the objective gatekeeper that I was so frustrated I almost wanted to pull out my hair while she continued to grill at it. Haha. Yup that kind of emotion vs logic. 

Germaine also helps to keep in check many of the dream-that-fly-to-the-sky-without-foundation moments. Especially when I get over excited and drift towards the extreme. She will break down the parts and remind us to stay grounded. Without her there, we probably will have more than we can deal with, straining our resources and community. 

Then there was the fateful day in 2018, when she told me how disappointed she was with me, about the way the management of FSS was. At that time, I was going through a tough time letting go of people and things. I was turning up the control of FSS, micro managing unhealthily. Germaine took a step back, and chose not to interfere immediately, for I was not ready to listen. Only when the time was right did she come forward to speak up to me. Throughout all the troubles she didn’t leave FSS but supported where she felt right.

Germaine in the 2018 Team Training: Campus Cup Run

Throughout all the ups and downs of the past 5 years, we stay true to who we are as individuals and a team. We grow together. She becomes an astute leader in the background with evolving communication skills. While I took on a more political and strategic role, with better understanding of a wider perspective. 

I absolutely appreciate the complimentary chemistry that helps keep FSS in balance working towards the goal of the FS movement without losing our focus. An organisational consultant once reviewed our team, and said that we are a rare and valuable organisation, because we have collective intelligence. A state where it is only possible when the team can communicate and accept their different style and opinions, while working towards a common goal. It is an ideal state many organisations couldn’t reach. He mentioned we have that open communication that is tough to execute. That credit probably goes to Germaine, the ever-present Managers of FSS and the Highly Vocal Coaches of FSS. Their courage in the generally oppressive society we are in is a gem, truely.

Our last Team meeting before COVID lockdowns in 2020

Lastly, I would like to thank Germaine for the friendship throughout the past 6 years. Outside of FSS, we provided listening ear to each other through our tough periods in life. We talk about Family, Studies, Ideas and even our own relationships. We check on each other beyond just work performance, but also each other’s health and mental state. The sincere care and concern really boost the chemistry of the team. I learnt so much from her, I believe I have grown to be more able to let go and be generous, while also taking care of one-self first (she is big on personal growth and development). I hope this friendship will last till the end of time. 

There are many more stories that one little article would be insufficient to. As we come to the end of the Story of Germaine. We will like everyone to know that Germaine, will be moving on from FSS as an active management at the end of 2021, into the role of an associate consultant, as she moves on to her first proper full time job and career (amazing right, she just got her first job/ career, and she already has so much experience and assets). We wish her well in her endeavours, but also know that she will always be part of the village that raises a child. Her legend will live on for ages beyond the end of times, as the stories will be told by generations after.

Thank you Germaine…

A post-lunch photo (End-2018)

Written by:
Coach Darren
Forest School Singapore

%d bloggers like this: