We (finally!!) started reading the book Wonder about a week ago with our classes. This is the class set of novels we fundraised for back in February and had planned to use during term 2, but scheduling was a nightmare and it just didn’t work out. So, term 3 is gonna be alllll about Wonder allll the time.
I first read Wonder with my very first grade 3 class a few years ago. I started the book out of a recommendation from my TFA coach, because I was looking for ways to do more read alouds and promote a community vibe amongst my little people. They loved it. I mean, really really loved it. Reading Wonder everyday almost became like this little sacred time that just me and my students shared. It was beautiful to discuss kindness, bullying, and school challenges with my small learners. They signed the kindness pledge that is on the book’s website and whenever someone was being mean, their friends would gently remind them of the pledge they had all made.
Reading Wonder for the 3rd time in a classroom feels very nostalgic for me. I’m thinking a lot about all the precious bbs I’ve had the privilege to educate over these last three years. I’m thinking about their futures, their challenges, their successes, their hopes and dreams, their families, and their communities. I’m worried that the world will be tough on them and that future teachers won’t remind them of their brilliance or encourage them to go after those crazy goals that their little hearts are aspiring for. But most of all, I’m excited about all the good they bring into this world and especially to the people around them and am jealous that their future teachers get to see them farther down on their path towards greatness.
In the book, there is this fabulous teacher called Mr. Browne. Each month, he gives his learners a new precept. A quote that can guide their moral character as they navigate the tumultuous time that is middle school. The first is “When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.” This precept kind of governs the whole theme of the book, of being kind to everyone you come in contact with. Kindness is oh so important and I think is often lost in this world of meeting deadlines and the rat race to the top. Many South Africans definitely are choosing kind in their everyday lives. People take time to greet you, ask how you are, see what your up to. I often forget of this cultural practice as I’m rushing around (even though there is literally no where I should ever be worried about being late to here because tardiness is more acceptable). For instance, say I go to buy a coffee and I just jump right into my order without saying “hi”. More often than not, the cashier will smile and say “how are you?” and I’ll remember to take a breath, chill, and slow down for a minute. I think that one question, that greeting shows ample kindness to everyone you come in contact with and I hope when I return to the states, I remember to breath, chill, and slow down for a minute when I’m ordering my coffee.
At the end of the school year, Mr. Browne has his learners write their own precepts. Auggie’s (the main character) precept is “everyone deserves a standing ovation because we all overcometh the world”. How stinking beautiful is that???? We should be celebrating each other’s successes every chance we get because this world is hard and ruthless and building each other up brings so much JOY into the world. This quote makes me think about all the learners I’ve worked with. In my teaching career and when I was a tutor during college, I’ve always worked in low-communities and predominantly communities of color. I think about the stereotypes and thoughts and ideas some members of the world (read: white people) have about these communities and it just makes me so mad. The learners I’ve worked with are bright, kind, passionate, hard-working humans and they are going to overcometh the world so hard! I’m so thankful for educators, social workers, counsellors, principals, coaches, parents, etc that are being champions in these little peoples lives, giving them that standing ovation at every milestone along the way. I’m proud of the communities and learners that I’ve worked with and most importantly feel lucky that I had a small part to play in their story.
Here’s to hoping that we all get some kindness and that standing ovation that we deserve.