Planting Seeds of Persisting Patience and Enduring Gentleness
What do you do in the face of rejection? Does one persist, or allow the sting of rebuff discourage one from trying again?
Ouyang Chunhui Emma from Bethesda Katong Kindergarten was unfazed when her warm welcome extended towards Jason* was not reciprocated initially.
When Jason first joined the school, Emma reached out to be his friend and buddy. She puts in effort to redirect his attention when he struggles to be engaged during lesson time. She would also integrate Jason into her group of friends, initiate conversations with him and invite him to join in her play.
However, Jason showed little interest and would even choose to run away during lesson times. He would also reject her efforts to befriend him by ignoring her. Sometimes, he would even physically brush her hands away.
The logical response would be to give up on trying to build the friendship. After all, Emma has other friends in class. Why bother keeping at making friends with Jason when it was so difficult? However, her efforts did not wane in the face of rejection. Instead, Emma demonstrated gentleness and humility by paying attention to Jason’s interests.
In time, she realised that Jason was drawn to non-fiction books. From then, she invested herself in reading with him at the class library, walking over to him to initiate reading time together. It did not take long before Jason started reaching out to Emma in return! He would choose a book and walk over to her so she can read to him.
Through these shared moments of discovering new information together, Jason, who has keen interest in dinosaurs and remembers their names well, started teaching Emma what he is passionate about.
There are still times when Jason’s behaviour seems out of the ordinary because of his added needs, and Emma recognises that as well. However, Emma continues to regard him as her peer, respecting him as her equal. She demonstrates this by speaking to him with kindness and gentleness, even when he behaves in disruptive ways. Her disposition towards him has also rubbed off their classmates and even her teachers!
Emma and Jason are no longer in the same class, and one would worry that such friendships cannot be replicated. However, Emma’s genuine concern for Jason and disposition towards him over the year they were classmates have inspired others in the school to do the same. You would be encouraged to know that this year Jason has had another classmate who filled the shoes that Emma left!
Children are not just passive recipients of information or learners of observed behaviours. They have the potential to be active change agents – Little Heroes of Inclusion who respect, care for and advocate for their special friends.
Ouyang Chunhui Emma is one of the six finalists for the Little Heroes of Inclusion Award 2022.