If you haven’t been formally introduced to Hyperdocs, you may want to check out this post from last year. Michele Waggoner tweeted out a link this week to an incredible Hyperdoc using Google Slides. The Hyperdoc is to be used for a literature circle activity based on the book, Wonder, by R.J. Palacio. It embeds Depth and Complexity into this collaborative presentation using David Chung’s ideas for literature circle frames. This doc is 139 slides long, and gives students many opportunities to do meaningful reflections, activities, and discussions. It looks like Michele put weeks of work into preparing this, and I, for one, am grateful she is sharing it with the world!
I’m a sucker for inspirational quotes. Like many people, I have a Pinterest Board of Favorite Quotations. But I particularly revel in printed collections of quotations. In July I shared a book of hand-lettered quotes that I purchased called, Whatever You Are Be a Good One. I love the art of each page, and I am still debating whether or not to pull out some of them to frame.
365 Days of Wonder is in no danger of being torn apart. Most of the pages are printed in simple fonts that belie the wisdom of the sentences. However, it is a book that I treasure because of a few other aspects that make it unique.
The book might be called a “spin-off.” The quotes were collected by R.J. Palacio, author of Wonder. Its foreword and subsequent introductions before each month of inspirational sayings are “written” by one of the admirable characters in Wonder, Mr. Browne. In Wonder, Mr. Browne’s precepts play an important role in guiding the characters. 365 Days of Wonder offers more advice that he has collected during his fictional career – including precepts submitted by children. All of the contributors are acknowledged in the back of the book.
I could be partial to this book because of Mr. Browne. I am currently re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird, and he reminds me somewhat of the noble Atticus Finch. It’s hard to remember, sometimes, that the words I’m reading come from an author and not the seasoned educator portrayed in the book. For example, these words herald the beginning of the February group of quotations: “The truth of the matter is this: there’s so much nobility lurking inside your souls. Our job as parents, and educators, and teachers, is to nurture it, to bring it out, and to let it shine.”
R.J. Palacio is responsible for quite a few original precepts of her own.
This is the time of year when people post “Best of” lists: Best Apps of the Year, Best News Stories of the Year, Best Songs of the Year, Best Posts of the Year, etc… I try to be different when I can (if it’s not terribly embarrassing), so I decided not to take that exact route. I briefly entertained the thought of doing a “Worst of” post – until I heard a radio story about the “Worst Movies of the Year.” Since that idea is already taken, I decided to take a look at this year’s posts to find some of the ones that fell “in-between” according to my blog stats. Sometimes I scratch my head at the posts that get a lot of views when compared to the ones that receive little attention. But there are some that are in the middle that might bear a second look. Maybe I posted them on a holiday, or on a big news day – or when one of the “Worst Movies of the Year” opened. Whatever the reason for the mediocre number of views, I decided to roll a few of them out for another try because, quite frankly, I am rather enthusiastic about the topics:
- “Make Your Own History” – this post features a video of a TED talk by Brad Meltzer. You may remember that I have mentioned Meltzer recently, as he is the author of one of my favorite children’s books, Heroes for My Daughter. In this video, Meltzer gives a passionate speech about how we can all make history, and offers the three important qualities of great achievers. It is an excellent video to show students or teachers.
- “I Wonder if We Could All Be a Bit Kinder” – I was deeply moved by reading the book, Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, this summer. In this post that I wrote in August, I summarized the book, and related it’s message of the need for kindness to two other great lectures that also highlight the importance of compassion – those of Jeff and Mark Bezos.
- “Don’t Compare Yourself to Others” – Some people I know are becoming “connected” educators through Twitter or other social networks, and they are panicking. They see great things that other people are doing and worry that they are not good enough. I’ll admit that I sometimes suffer from the same feelings of inadequacy. I wrote this post to remind those people, and myself, that our most important connections are made with our students – and we all do this in different ways. It’s great to get new ideas, but we can’t berate ourselves for not trying every single one of them.
So, there you have it – my list of mediocre posts from 2013. Actually, there are far more than 3. I just chose the best of the mediocre according to my very humble opinion.
I guess that means I’m not all that different after all 😉
Just like most brains, mine constantly searches for patterns and connections. Lately, I’ve observed an underlying theme in many of the resources that I’ve been culling for teaching next year – the importance of kindness.
After seeing a book recommendation on several blogs, including one of my favorites, “Not Just Child’s Play,” I finally read it during my recent vacation. The book is Wonder, by R.J. Palacio. It is a novel about a boy who is born with a severe facial deformity. After years of being home schooled, he and his family make the decision for him to attend school in 5th grade. The story chronicles his year dealing with ignorant bullies (including students and parents) as well as big-hearted heroes. (Check out the “Choose Kind” Tumblr here.)
I was reminded, near the end of the story, of recent posts on two other blogs, Larry Ferlazzo’s and Sonya Terborg’s, referencing a graduation speech given by George Saunders. George Saunders, during his speech, says, “What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.”
In Wonder, during a graduation speech, one of the main characters offers a quote from J.M. Barrie, “Shall we make a new rule of life…always try to be a little kinder than is necessary?”
Those quotes led me back to two other great speeches I have featured on this blog – by Jeff and Mark Bezos. Mark Bezos, in his simple story about an experience as a volunteer firefighter, gives us this, “Not every day is going to offer us a chance to save somebody’s life, but every day offers us an opportunity to affect one.”
And Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, gave this powerful quote that I feel is an excellent reminder for my gifted students, “What I want to talk to you about today is the difference between gifts and choices. Cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice. Gifts are easy — they’re given after all. Choices can be hard. You can seduce yourself with your gifts if you’re not careful, and if you do, it’ll probably be to the detriment of your choices.”
The question I asked myself (and many of you may also confess to thinking) as I read Wonder and George Saunders’ speech was, “Which one am I – the kind person or the bully?” The truth is, unfortunately, that most of the time as a child I was the one who did nothing. In the eyes of some people, that is even worse.
I like to believe that I am stronger than that now. I like to believe that I model choosing kindness on a regular basis for my students and my own daughter. I like to believe that I show them that it is not always the easiest decision, but it is the best.
I recommend sharing Wonder with your students. Have some genuine discussions about the importance – and the difficulty – of bestowing kindness. Let them share their stories, and, whenever you can, share your own stories about kindnesses you gave, didn’t give, or wish you had received. The world needs more conversations like these.