SEE-SAW Summer: Finding Balance

When I was young, I used revel in riding on a see-saw. The exhilaration going up, as high as it could, was both fearful and invigorating at the same time. Going down was, well, it was a downer until, thud, I hit the ground.

I can akin this experience to my summer of ups and downs… high highs and low lows. It’s been a tumultuous summer, at best.

At one point, it seemed more like the scrambler than a see saw.

My husband reminded me that 13 is an unlucky number; in fact, most tall buildings skip from floor 12 to 14– now, that must mean something. I’m wondering if this is a year that might have been better off skipped.

I don’t think so.

I’ve been reflecting. A lot. And I think it’s the depths that we face that make the heights of our experiences possible to recognize as extraordinary– euphoric, even. Sometimes, when you’re in the moment of something wonderful, it seems surreal, as if it’s happening to someone else. You almost can see outside yourself– like watching a movie. And, in that moment, you can consciously conceive that this moment is unlike any other you’ve lived and will long exist as a memory of fantastical proportions.

Conversely, the pain one feels when facing one of our obstacles is real– like a weight you carry in your heart. It’s heavy and it hurts. All senses heightened, you feel it and smell it and hear it and taste it– all the bitterness bound up like a tight knot that situates into the core of your being. And in IT, the unraveling seems impossible. You search and search for the end of the rope to untie the knot, but all you can feel are its tethers.

Yet, in its most basic of form, bad begets good. Always.

A chronicle of the highs and lows in my world, this summer and the many reasons this summer was necessary to experience:

SS Summer collage

cheating and plagiarizing=bad; reflecting on what led to such decisions and learning to accept the choices one makes=good. underage drinking party and the citations which ensued=bad; discovering the undercurrent to this careless behavior=good, communicating=good. graduating from college and accepting a job offer=good; accepting a job impulsively without researching it fully=bad; quitting a job before planning what comes next=bad; asserting oneself to pursue the original dream job=good; learning to be true to oneself=good. car accident that could have been life-altering=bad; hitting rock bottom=bad; looking deeply to see the big picture and taking steps to establish priorities and responsibilities=good. vacant space=bad; turning that space into a place where ideas and action thrive=good. withdrawing from the people who are important=bad; discovering who really cares=good. artistic expression=good. feeling like a victim who has no control=bad; taking one step at a time= good; asking for help=good; always communicating=good; moving in a positive direction=good; focusing on gratitude=good. life lessons=good.

In experiencing the difficulties of our lives, we are forced to grow or, at least, change somehow. The lessons we learn are necessary for moving forward– better informed, wiser, more compassionate, less judgmental, more understanding. The journey isn’t about living the high highs and low lows– they come and go (bad begets good). It’s somewhere in the middle where we find the balance we derived from the sum of our experiences.

SS Summer

What I’ve learned is that I don’t view life in extremes; I’m much more comfortable somewhere in the middle. But in recognizing the extremes, in living and learning through them, the high highs and the low lows, makes me realize that happiness and peace is finding the balance that exists somewhere in the middle.

TF believe

To commemorate the challenges I’ve overcome this summer, I got a tattoo– something that’s been ruminating in my thoughts for a long time, now. Like a see saw, I’d think YES, Definitely, but then I’d go to the other extreme and fear the pain or not know what to get (because it’s permanent– it’s a serious commitment). In the midst of the mayhem, it occurred to me that this is the time to get a tattoo to symbolize triumph through some of the most difficult of times, but it’s also in a place to remind myself to always BELIEVE, because, at the end of the day, believing (in something, in many things actually) is what always gets me through.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Magic of Teaching: First-Day-Ever Teacher Advice to My New-Teacher Friends

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Dear New-Teacher Friend,

As you know, every teacher has a bag of tricks… it’s that mythical, mystical bag (our heads) where teacher tips are checked in and out like a library of books.  Don’t worry, you’ve already accumulated some of your own, in your training, I’m sure of it, but you’ll continue honing your magic with each class– each student, each year– you teach.

Realize that I’m in my twentieth-something year of teaching, and while my bag of tricks is really full, at this point, it’s growing. At no point in my career have I stood back and thought, I’ve finally arrived as a teacher: this is as good as it gets. On the contrary, times change, I change, my audience changes, society and expectations change. Being a teacher (and you already are, if you’ve gotten to this point!) is an ever evolving process of growth and change. But that’s one of the things I love the most about teaching– that fact that we never find ourselves in a state of stasis. (And if you do, your teaching career is probably over at that point or should be).

So, I’d like to share with you some of my very essential-go-to teacher tips I’ve learned along the way to help ease your transition into teaching.

1)  Be prepared. Decorate your room. Make it a combination of a space that reflects you and your pedagogy and one the students are excited to enter. Plan, at least, the first week– in excruciating detail. Trust me, the more planned you are ahead of time, the less you will stress when the unexpected arises. And it will.

2) TRY to get a good sleep before the first days of school. I know you’re excited– the butterflies are fluttering, but I still get them at the beginning of each new year, so it isn’t something new to this experience. It occurs at the beginning of each and every school year, to be sure. You’ll think about all of the things you didn’t do and should do. You may even have scary teacher dreams. I have! But try to calm yourself, and just get a good night’s sleep (because you’re going to need it).

3) I know you’ll have a smile on your face, since let’s face it, if you’ve become a teacher, the first day of school is exciting because it holds such promise. Stand at the door, with that smile on your face, and welcome your new students into class, greeting each one. They are just as nervous as you, if not more. Your smile and greeting are their first impression of you. Make it a good one!

4) Make sure your expectations are clear and written somewhere that you and your students can refer to them. Often. Trust is something that’s gained when boundaries are clear. Be almost over-firm, in the early days and even months, in adhering to these, even when it’s easier to let one or two slide. Students will test you on them like it’s their job, but, even when they can’t consciously conceive it or communicate it, structure makes them feel safe and cared about. A wise teacher told me, you can always ease up on control, but you can never get it back once you’ve lost it— and it’s true.

5) Be enthusiastic. You want them to know that, together, you have a job to accomplish, but your goal is to make it engaging– even fun!

6) Get to know your students, by name, early on. I do this by saying their names (while looking at my seating chart/ cheat sheet) often. Normally, by the end of the first week, I have most of their names down.

7) Assign seats (this will help you in learning their names more quickly, too). I not only assign seats, but I change their assigned seats for every unit and/or marking period to develop a sense of community for my students. My goal is to provide them with the opportunity to work with and get to know everyone in class. Students usually grumble about this in the beginning of the year, but by the end of the year, they’re thankful to have had the opportunity to work with students they would, admittedly, not have chosen to work with on their own. Moreover, it fosters my philosophy that change is good and we should seek to change our perspective– to see and learn things we might not have otherwise.

8) Be flexible. Teaching is a juggling act of being present in the now, reflecting on what was, and thinking ahead– all while having two conversations simultaneously, sometimes, and making sure that everyone is on task. Allow yourself moments to breathe. And allow yourself teachable moments where sometimes it’s better to follow where the class is taking you than the plan you’d written in your planner. The more practice you get– the more you will begin to recognize these moments. But if you’re not flexible and open to them, you’ll miss the opportunity for authentic learning.

9) Find something unique in each of your students and let them know you know it. The fact that you care goes a long way in building a relationship with them that will flourish throughout the year.

10) Realize that plan you had for the perfect lesson will not execute perfectly, most often. And that’s okay. We do our best. We are human. We’ll forget something or rush through something or even handle something badly. But, at the end of the day, the most important part is to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and how you’ll do it differently tomorrow. Know that every tomorrow is a new day. Even some of the lessons that went so poorly or the worst run-ins I had with  students– usually, by the next day, it’s a clean slate. Put it in the past. Learn from it. And move on. Add it to your own bag of tricks.

teacher prayer

I applaud you for choosing teaching as a career– or more likely, for listening to the calling. Teaching is not something we do, as much as it is who we are. It’s not an easy job, for sure. You’ll be asked to multi-task in ways you’ve never even imagined possible. You’ll feel this awesome sense of responsibility to your students, your colleagues, parents, and community. Just when you feel caught up with your work, there’s always more to do. Most often, you’ll do far more than you’re compensated or rewarded for. But, through it all, remember that you’re making a difference in the life of a child– so many children, in fact. And in my experience, that is the most fulfilling and rewarding feeling of all.

Now, go out there: you’ll be fine (an the good news is you’ll be better every day!). Teach with passion, learn every day, grow with your students, give what you can & you’ll see how truly magical you are!

Best of Luck,

From a Fellow Teacher

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( This post was inspired by my own new-teacher friends: Joe, Katie & Stephen.

I’m so excited for you and wish you the very best!)

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Just Be HERE

just be here

I was just about to begin writing a piece that’s been ruminating in my head for a while when I take pause to “just be here,” as my friend reminds me so often. At the beginning of summer, I created this room– this space, just for me. My study. I filled it with things and words that are important to me; a room couldn’t better reflect me than this one. And here I sit in the morning, ready to write. My son is here, laying on my daybed listening to music. And a few minutes later,  my daughter joins, plopping herself in the arm chair just simply daydreaming, listening to music, perhaps, while I’m madly typing on my laptop. No one says a thing. Until, in unison, they begin to sing… “If you really wanna’ go where you can find me, I’ll be unwinding…” (Zac Brown Band).

And all I feel is contentment, just a warmth that comes from the core of my being at the irony that my place, meant originally for escape, quiet, privacy, has actually become a meeting place for my kids to just be in my presence.

It makes me aware that this is one of those moments, when in the midst of it, I recognize happiness.

Everything is KISMET

An old post, but a good one!

Mirror MUSES

Have you ever read a book that, unknowingly (perhaps self consciously) in the choosing of it, speaks to something you’re going through at the time you are reading it? The connection is awe inspiring! It’s happened to me several times, actually. And I add such experiences to my book of kismet.

Most recently, well, two years ago this Columbus Day, I was on Cape Cod with my girlfriends. One, who lives there all summer, takes us to the quaint shopping area in Harwichport town center. After lunch, she says, “I have to take you to this adorable book store. You’ll love it!” And I did. Upon entering I felt a hominess, as sense that the owner was probably the only employee who just loved bringing in original and, often, local books. I can loom for hours in a bookstore, perusing, touching, smelling. My hand picked up a thinish book; pictured…

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A Room of My Own

room 4a

My summer is full of “projects”– tasks I simply don’t have time for during the school year. This summer is no different. However, one such project was multi-purposed: for me to create a room of my own.

room 7

As my children grew, physically bigger, the space in my house seemed shrinking and mine seemingly obsolete. When my 22 year old son announced he was moving across the country, I really thought about his room. Should I leave it completely in tact? Just in case? Completely closed off– a shrine of sorts. I discussed the choices that lay before me; he wasn’t happy he’d be losing stock, but it was his decision, after all, to leave the nest. After serious contemplation, I decided to reclaim my space. The room that had been mine before he became restless and independent wanting his own space outside of his shared room with his brother would become mine again. I’d sacrificed that and so much more. Making it clear that he’d always have a home in our home to return to, I set about the task of closure and new beginnings.

room 1a

I went with a black & white theme, thoroughly inspired by Pinterest. I decided I’d do three white walls and one blackboard wall (black chalk board paint which comes in an array of colors, but I chose black). Being the quote collecter that I am, a graffiti chalkboard wall made sense to me. On it, I wrote quotes and drew symbols that are important or inspiring to me.

room 2a room 3a

Because I already had a daybed, I just needed the dressing to make it look pretty. I needed a desk and a cabinet, too, so I set about my shopping spree.

room 6a

Here’s my list if you like what you see:

blackboard paint- Home Depot

whiteboard paint pens & chalks- Staples

bed linens & pillow cases- Wal-Mart

throw pillows- Overstock.com

valance- Kangaroo Closet

desk, white bookshelf/storage cabinet & white arm chair- Ikea

room 5a

This is my place to write– not a shared office space where I have to vie for time or a portion of the dining room where I can be distracted constantly. This is a room that inspires me because it’s mine. Only mine. It reflects all of who I am. And the best part– I can close the door.

Paying it Forward: My Role as a Mentor Teacher

Student teacher Mentor

Mentoring student teachers is one of the greatest pleasures of my job. I’m not on of those who looks to it as an opportunity for a break in my course load, and, if one is a good mentor, the work load certainly multiplies instead of diminishes. I enjoy many things about working with new teachers– chief among them is their enthusiasm. I recall what it was like being a new teacher when so many possibilities were ahead of me, especially the unexpected twists and turns that my career has taken along the way.

I’ve had the good fortune of three very different stages in my career, as an educator, which I share with my students so they know that the traditional path isn’t the only way. When I graduated from college, my idea of being a teacher was having my own classroom, and a class– a cohesive unit of kids who were excited to learn– to share my wisdom and enthusiasm about learning with. That ideal notion was quickly expelled when I couldn’t find a job and had to “settle” working for Adult Education, under the guise of working with adults, but, in fact, most of them were anything but. I say “settle” because it certainly was not what I had planned, but it turned out to be the best thing for me because, there, I learned that each student/learner is an individual with his/her strengths, weaknesses, interests, obstacles…. Most had not been successful in the traditional classroom, so I needed to find new ways to get through to them, tapping into their individual learning styles. My next job I would classify as one that taught me the essentials of teaching writing, reading and critical thinking, interdependently, along with learning how to build a cohesive course threaded by connectivity. I learned that everything in life is based on making connections. The next stage in my career brought me to what I early on referred to as the Shangri-La of teaching– a small suburban, upper/middle class community that put priority on education. Well, I’ve come off of my cloud a bit, but I certainly have learned a great deal about teaching in a traditional, public school setting.

So, how did I get where I am, today? Not to negate the hard work, the passion , the rewards, but if I had to point to one thing that consistently got me to where I am– I’d have to say it’s been my mentors. They have been supportive and have taught me hard lessons. They have been role models, allowing me to develop my own sense of uniqueness and individuality. They have opened doors, very generous some of them. They have coached and cheered. And some of them, I’m sure, didn’t even know their influence on me at the time.

I’m a pay it forward kind of person. So, each opportunity I have to work with a young teacher, I take it. Some have been the most rewarding experiences of my life; while others have been excruciatingly painful. But isn’t that what education (microcosm of life) is? It’s all about the experience, and there is, in fact, learning to be had in each and every experience.

Student teacher Wordle

Student Teacher/Mentor Pedagogy:How I approach this experience…

A Reflective Process

First and foremost, student teaching should be a reflective process for everyone involved. There will be highs and lows, teachable moments, and moments you never want to relive as a teacher, but at the end of the day, the teacher needs to look back to ask: What worked? What didn’t work? Why? And  how does all of this play a part in how I’ll do it next time? The ability to reflect on a lesson, all of the tangibles and intangibles, is essential to good teaching– for mentors and mentees, alike.

The Role of the Mentor

As a mentor, one needs find a balance of being directive by establishing parameters that will promote a successful experience while allowing the student teacher creative license to shape his/her student teaching experience. In my department, we encourage student teachers to work with two teachers to gain a more diversified experience. It helps if these teachers are already adept at collaborating. The best situation, as far as I’m concerned is a complimentary one where mentors differ in some way, but work well together, thus, modeling a team approach.

Ideally, mentors should have the opportunity to converse with the student teacher before taking him/her on as a mentee. During this conversation, mentors should gain a sense of the potential mentee’s background, strengths, challenges and goals. A good working relationship is key to the success of a student teaching experience.

Next, mentors should meet to work out possible schedules for the student teacher, with the goal of providing choice while taking into consideration the content of the courses as well as variant levels and not too many preps. A conversation with a potential student teacher early on will help guide this process. It is my belief that a good schedule, one that includes content which can showcase the student teacher’s background/knowledge/interests coupled with the challenge of working in a subject that the student teacher is less comfortable with provides a good foundation. Moreover, it’s ultimately up to the student teacher to choose which schedule will be most conducive to his/her learning goals. One note of importance is that when working with two mentors, it’s essential to have a common prep when all three can meet to debrief on lessons (planning, preparation and implementation).

Letting Go

As a mentor, I feel it is imperative to let go in order for the mentee to get an optimal experience. This means, making the student teacher aware of my own goals for my students for the year, offering him/her choice in what to teach within the parameters of the curriculum, while keeping in mind my overarching goals. This means, that he/she might choose to teach something I normally do not, so long as it adheres to the curriculum, which is something I fully support if not encourage. I see my role as a guide, so my own curriculum/units/lessons/activities are available for my student teachers to use in varying capacities. Some teachers will literally take my lessons and implement them as is; these are often the teachers who lack confidence or the creative prowess to develop their own. While others go to the completely opposite extreme, making units/lessons their own from the start. Most fall somewhere in between. Regardless the type of teacher, I feel it’s my job to point them in directions but not dictate how they use the material. And the goal for each student teacher is autonomously to develop & implement a unit from beginning to end before the end of the student teaching block.

Observation Period

During the first two weeks of a student teaching block, the student teacher’s role is to observe, engage, and begin planning for his/her own first unit/class. In class, I invite the student teacher to jump in, to take part in what the class and I am doing, to work one-on-one and in small groups with students to create a smooth transition. After observing one or several of my classes, I conference with the student teacher, asking him/her to identify what they thought my goals were, based on a given lesson, and to assess whether or not and how those goals were met based on the behavior of the students in the classroom. I also ask what I might have done differently or what the student teacher would have done differently. This way, we begin to dialogue about the connections and scaffolding that occurs within a lesson and from one to another. Modeling is a very important part of teaching, as is reflection, and it all begins, here in these early conversations.

Grading Instruction

As part of the observation period, I ensure that a student teacher observes an essay lesson from beginning to end. As a proponent of the process writing school of thought, we do a lot of writing in class for that first writing assignment, especially, which is good for a beginning teacher to see. Upon its conclusion, I copy a handful of papers (attempting to collect an array of levels of writing). I send one set home with the student teacher to grade & comment on while I grade and comment on the same set. Together we go through the papers one at a time discussing the grade choices/comments we made. It’s a good exercise for me to see the thought process behind the assessment and for him/her to see mine. This will help me determine the level of attention I need to pay, moving forward, to his/her ability to assess the students. Further, we discuss grading policies (weighted vs. percentages) and rationales behind determine what assignments are of what value.

Unit Building

This is the foundation for good teaching. I call it unit “building” because scaffolding is very important. And I don’t just consider the unit as an entity unto itself, prior knowledge is key to determine which unit should be taught first, second, and so on and why.  As mentioned earlier, I share my overarching goals for each class for the year with my student teacher, pointing out how what he/she observes works toward achieving those goals.

Once the student teacher establishes the content of his/her unit and can articulate how the instruction of this unit “fits” into the big goals for the year, I ask the student teacher to consider what his/her ultimate goals for the unit are.  In other words, you should know where you’re headed before you determine how to get there. It all boils down to one question: what is the end product and what skills are you looking to assess from that product? Once that’s established, I direct them to work backward from there in planning the daily lessons.

Is it easy? For some it comes naturally. For me, it is one of my favorite parts of my job. But my goal is two-fold: for the mentee, I need him/her to become at least proficient in unit building and to recognize how the construction of a unit is a microcosm of the construction of a course. Once those two things are clear, student teachers have the foundation they need for good teaching.

The Part that Can’t be Taught: Presence

Unfortunately, in my experience you either have it or you don’t. That isn’t to say it can’t be cultivated. And certainly, even the most dynamic teachers have grown into their role. It’s all about confidence, really. You have to know more than the class, first. Second, you need to give into the fact that you don’t know everything. And finally, you need to be flexible. You need to allow for the daily mishaps that occur in a classroom to happen, and pick up with grace and carry on. When students sense a teacher who is shy, or tense, or ill-at-ease, they can be ruthless in trying to expose it. I share this with my student teachers before hand: “the students will test you in every way possible, like it’s their job.” The thing about teaching is that you have to be “ON” constantly.

As an exercise to develop the presence of a teacher in a classroom, what I think works best is during that observation period to set up as many observations as you can in an array of classroom settings– in other disciplines, even. As the mentor, choose teachers’ classes for your mentee to observe the best of the best and those who seriously need improvement. Accompany your student teacher on these observations if you can. It makes the dialogue so much richer. Give the mentee a heads up to pay attention to classroom management, teaching style, and how the teacher responds to what occurs in the classroom. By having this shared experience, when the mentee faces some of what was observed, you as the mentor can go back to that … “remember when we saw Student throw a wad of gum across the room… how did TEACHER handle that?” It’s all about modeling, making connections and reflecting. All of teaching is.

All Kinds of Observing

It’s the role of the mentor to guide her student teacher.  I love this quote:

“The essence of education is not to stuff you with facts but to help you discover your uniqueness, to teach you how to develop it, and then to show you how to give it away.”
-Leo Buscaglia

I think it really applies here because I see my job as one who guides the student teacher in becoming the best TEACHER he/she can be.

If, as the mentor, you dictate what you want of the mentee, than flying won’t be so easy when leaving your nest. Just like teaching, student teaching is a trial and error experience. Sometimes a student teachers want to do something that I can see in the planning will probably not work, and so long as it isn’t harmful to the students, I let them go with it in order for them to discover how and where it went wrong on their own.

My job is to observe and help the student teacher walk through a reflection. I provide both commendations and recommendations based on the mentee’s own reflections of a lesson. My observations range from very informal (just eavesdropping really while tending to some of my own work) to both planned and unplanned formal observations. Sometimes I script everything from the class which tends to be an enlightening experience, even for a seasoned teacher, because, as much as we like to think we are, we are not omniscient. We can’t see when a student is doodling or texting or passing notes or pretending to work when really they’re daydreaming. And sometimes an observation is very focused when I’m just looking to report on a specific goal the student teacher has.

Conferences with the mentee are a must after each observation, no matter the kind or purpose. They always open up with me asking: “So how did today’s lesson go?” Then, depending upon the mentee’s response, I move to questions like these: “What were the strengths?” “What would you change and why?” “What did the students not get that you need to continue working with them on?”

Hands-Off Approach to “My Students”

As teachers, we are a little possessive over our students; I’ll admit it. Each year, I always say, “I have 123 kids and three of them are my own.” So, it’s hard to give up one’s own students to a student teacher, especially when the student teacher comes later in the year after bonds have already been formed. Having said that, it’s imperative to have a “hands-off” approach to a class of students that a student teacher is presiding over. Imperative. The teacher cannot gain credibility if you allow your students to come to you instead of the student teacher. It’s like children in a parental situation– when a child plays one parent against another– if you allow it to happen, it will. It’s the job of a child to test authority. If lines are made clear, the child feels safe. I make it clear to my classes the shift in authority when a student teacher begins his/her teaching. I reinforce that each time a student asks me, “Can I go to my locker?” “Can I work with Student A instead of Student B?” “Can you look at this essay, Mr. So & So gave me a C but I think you would have given me a B.” No. No. And no. Go see Mr. So & So. The worst thing a mentor can do is undermine the authority of a student teacher. Now, having said that, it’s the job of a mentor to ensure that the best interests of the children are being met at all times in addition to the best interests of the student teacher. It’s a balancing act, but as teachers we’re fantastic jugglers.

An Ongoing Relationship and Letting Go

Like preparing a child to leave its nest, teaching,  like parenting, is ultimately about letting go. Some students come back time after time while others are never to be seen again. We don’t know how our words will or will not resonate with them long after they’ve gone, but it sure is nice to hear when they do.

I recognize each of my own mentors, some of whom I keep in contact with, today, and some whom have become an important part of my past. I’ve thanked some personally and, to others, I’ve sent random letters of thanks. It’s important to say thank you to some one who’s affected where your journey leads you.

When student teachers leave, particularly those I’ve had a strong connection with, I try to leave the door ajar, just a little. It’s important to empower each of them with how far they’ve come, and some come farther than others to be sure, but everyone has his/her own path. I hope, in the end, a few of the teacher tricks I’ve passed on will be of help in the future– that my reach will not end with the student teaching experience. And, more so, I hope that I’ve instilled the idea of paying it forward in my student teachers, that one day, when they are confident enough that they have wisdom to share with others that they do.

Teaching Jung

Wonder, R.J. Palacio– So much more than a review, a call to action

wonder

Have you ever read a book so inspiring that you just wanted to become a better person after having read it? That novel, for me this summer, is Wonder by R.J. Palacio. It’s a young adult novel about a ten year-old boy, Auggie, whose face is disfigured, and he’s entering a traditional school setting for the first time as a fifth grader. It’s about his journey and the journey of those who surround him– ranging from his staunchest supporters to the class bullies. It’s about not judging someone by his appearance, but it’s so much more than that. Palacio manages to touch upon the core of humanity, so any one can make a connection to this book. It’s about kindness and decency, and the message is we reap what we sow and that we can change; we can all be better people.

Wonder was recommended to me by a colleague and friend. I put it off for a while because she described it to be a kid book– we happened upon the conversation when we were talking about how children’s literature can be so poignant, even for adults. Pushing her suggestion in the back of my mind, it resurfaced this summer when I so desperately needed something uplifting. I love the way we choose books, sometimes, that we need to read– as they are relevant to a particular stage or experience. Wonder fulfilled that need for me. I read it, curled up on the couch on a rainy day during our Cape Cod vacation. While others fled to find something to do– some went to the mall, some went fishing– I just wanted to read this book. And I did– cover to cover– in one day. While, admittedly, I sobbed so much at the end that I needed to keep wiping at my tears because the words became blurred on the page, I really felt, in that moment that Wonder changed me somehow.

I read all the bonus features at the end of the book… notes about the allusions, commonly asked questions, author interview…

What struck me most about the author interview is something I can so wholly identify with as a writer. Palacio said that her first reader of this book gave her some harsh criticism which caused her to re-think her writing. But her husband affirmed that she should believe in herself and her story– that someone else would believe in it too!

So, this book provided an awakening, or perhaps, reaffirmation, for me, not to mention it was simply a joy to read. It’s a book I want every one to read. Every single person. Teachers and students, parents and children… people should read it together and talk about it. People should pass this book on. It’s a book for sharing.

…From the novel:

A link to R.J. Palacio’s Website:

http://rjpalacio.com/index.html

The precepts (rules to live by)

  1. “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.”   —Dr. Wayne Dyer
  2. “Your deeds are your monuments.”   —Inscription on ancient Egyptian tomb
  3. “Have no friends not equal to yourself.”   —Confucius
  4. “Fortune favors the bold.”   —Virgil
  5. “No man is an island, entire of itself.”   —John Donne
  6. “It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.”   —James Thurber
  7. “Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much.”   —Blaise Pascal
  8. “What is beautiful is good, and who is good will soon be beautiful.”   —Sappho
  9. “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.”   —John Wesley
  10. “Just follow the day and reach for the sun.”   —The Polyphonic Spree
  11. “Everyone deserves a standing ovation because we all overcometh the world.”   —Auggie Pullman

A link to my favorite quotes … Goodreads

http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/16319487-wonder

If you’ve read it, I’d love to know your thoughts about it, too?