|SLICE OF LIFE Tuesdays are hosted by Two Writing Teachers|
The highlight of my week: Skype with R.J. Palacio, author of Wonder.
This is the first time we have attempted such a large-scale skype. Usually, we operate on a small group or single classroom level. There is something so powerful in watching students gather in front of the big screen to connect with an author.
Picture an auditorium packed full of 6th graders who have all read Wonder and fallen in love with Auggie. Add in a single class of 8th graders who believe in the power of story and appreciate the opportunity to “crash the party.”
When R.J. Palacio appeared on the screen, the excitement in the room was palpable.
Student: What is your next book going to be about?
Palacio*: I can tell you what it will not be…it will not be a sequel to Wonder.
A groan of disappointment unites the audience. 200 voices suddenly become one giant sigh of despair. Although we can all understand Palacio’s explanation that some books are meant to have sequels and some books are meant to stand alone—and we agree that Auggie’s story is the kind of story that is meant to stand proudly alone—we can’t help but feel a sense of loss when the door is closed to another opportunity to connect with Auggie and friends.
Student: Were you ever bullied?
Palacio*: Not that I can remember in particular. I remember much more clearly the people who chose to be kind to me. I remember those people who went out of their way to show kindness.
The entire room sits up a little straighter in their seats. I can do that. I can choose kind. I can go out of my way to show kindness towards others. I can be remembered too.
[What a far cry this message is from the message of Jodee Blanco, author of Please Stop Laughing at Me, who visited our school a couple months ago. Blanco’s message, in essence was: bullying damages people; if you have been bullied, you are damaged; this damage lasts forever and may even prevent you from having successful future relationships.]
Choose kind. It’s a simple message, though not always so simple when it comes to putting those words into practice. Choose kind. That’s the message 200 students walked out of the auditorium carrying in their hearts on Monday. That’s message that I carry in mine.
*Please note that these statements are a paraphrased version of Palacio’s exact words. I did not take an audio recording of the skype, so I am capturing the essence of her message from memory here.