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Sowing Seeds

Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (November 30, 2013)

There’s a story about how a farmer sowed seeds the seeds landed on four different types of ground. Some seeds landed on a path and the birds came to eat it up. Some fell on rocky ground and the seed started to grow but it quickly withered because it had no moisture. Some others fell on ground with thorns and the thorns choked up the plant as it grew. But the last seeds fell on good soil and it yielded a crop a hundred times more than it was sown.

Many times, I feel like I am like the farmer when I teach. The things I say and do are like the seeds that the farmer sows. When I speak to children and teach them values, I am sowing seeds into their souls. After seeds get sown into the ground, they can’t be seen for a while and it won’t be until it grows out of the ground that the fruits of the plant can be seen. But because I won’t know which ‘soil’ these words fall on each time, I commit to faithfully sowing good seeds.

Some words I say may end up on the ‘path’ where they end up being forgotten straight away (unfortunately!). Like the birds that eat the seeds on the path, sometimes it’s distractions and forgetfulness that ‘eat up’ the words that get said to these children.

Some words I say may end up being on rocky ground where the plant quickly withers for lack of moisture. In the same way that seeds need moisture, the words we say need reinforcement and repetition. If a child is only told once that he is a gifted speaker and isn’t given the chance to use and hone his speaking skills, it’s unlikely that he will develop the skills and believe that he is indeed a gifted public speaker. The lack of reinforcement will kill the words of value.

Then some words I say may end up on ground with thorns. If I tell a child that he is intelligent because he has great interpersonal skills, his confidence won’t rise unless others reinforce with the same comment. If he goes home and he’s told he’s stupid for not getting an A in his math test, the ‘thorn’ of other people’s comment will choke up the encouraging words I said.

But the last type of ‘soil’ is what I live for. Some words I say and values I teach will land on good soil. Soil that will help a little seed grow. And when it grows, it can grow many folds over. I remember in my first year of teaching character education. Many people doubted the effectiveness and need for teaching children values. But I sowed the seeds. I insisted on teaching children to persevere, to be responsible and to give back to the community. I insisted on bringing children on community service visits and having them help with fundraisers for local charities.

Just this past week, I saw the fruits of the seeds sown 5 years ago. I have a group of students that I have watched grow up. They have been at JEMS, my character education centre, since its opening and I have watched them grow up from being wide-eyed primary one students to knowledgeable, mature students. This past week, they were in class and we were discussing what we could do this Christmas to help the community. These students had a discussion amongst themselves to talk about the different societal issues that need attention and with great communication between themselves, and great compassion for people in the community, they started brainstorming and planning their own fundraisers for charities. They each contributed their own unique skills to the planning of the events and I was so proud. They were displaying all the values I had been teaching them over the past 5 years and I knew that my words had landed on good soil.

And as I continue to teach children every day, I won’t know what soil they will be that day. I won’t know what they retain and what they will forget instantly. But I will be like the farmer and continue sowing because I have faith that there will be some things that they will remember for the rest of their lives. I will continue sowing good seeds of character and values because I believe that one day, I will see the fruits.


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