Monday, March 4, 2013

Kinder Than Necessary

Just last week, I finished reading the book WONDER by R. J. Palacio with my students. Even though this book is about a fifth grade boy, it has a powerful message of kindness, acceptance, and love for people of all ages. I wasn't sure if my eighth-grade students would think it was too young for them, but, in the end, they all really enjoyed the book and following Auggie's journey.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.

What I particularly like about this book, and why I think it is a powerful read for teens, is the reminder to choose kindness when possible. It really shows how lives can be changed by the choice of kindness, in both big and small ways. In fact, one of the characters, toward the end of the book, encourages everyone to be kinder than necessary. Not just kind, but kinder than necessary. I love that. 

In an effort to find some multi-media stuff to enhance this book in my classroom, I came across two awesome videos recently. You may have seen these on facebook or twitter or wherever you hang out in the internet. But, if you are like me, anyway, you may have scrolled right past them without watching. I probably would have myself, if I wasn't wrapping up this unit on kindness and bullying, but I'm so glad I did stop to watch, because then I was able to share these two awesome videos with my students.

Video #1 - High school basketball player passes the ball to mentally challenged player on other team 

I LOVE this news story about a teen taking the opportunity to be kinder than necessary, and making such a positive impact on everyone around him. This is really an example of someone who gained absolutely nothing from his act of kindness, but took the opportunity to absolutely made someone's day. 

Video #2 - To This Day project by Shane Koyczan

This video is 7-minutes long, but it is absolutely worth it to watch the whole thing. Shane Koyczan is an amazing spoken word poet who wrote this brilliant poem about the effects of bullying and how it can impact a person's life when the people around him or her don't make the choice to be kind. So many teens I know are so careless with their words, not realizing the terrible impact they can have, and this poem is a powerful reminder. (I truly hate that we teach our kids that "sticks and stones" rhyme, because it is absolutely untrue.)

As for the beautiful animation in this video, Shane put out a call to people who wanted to contribute, so the animation here is from over 250 talented artists, and it is all blended together absolutely seamlessly.

I know it seems like a long video, but, I promise, it will be the best 7 minutes you spend today.

It's an easy thing, to show kindness to others, but it's not something that is done enough. I'm glad I had the opportunity to share with my students a book and these videos that provide powerful messages of the impact that a little kindness can have.

What did you think about the videos? Have you read WONDER yet? Any ideas on how to be kinder than necessary? Share your thoughts in the comments!


Jaime Morrow said...

I haven't read WONDER yet, but I love that "be kinder than necessary" message. I think we could all stand to be a little kinder than necessary.

I saw that second video for the first time about a week ago and was really moved by it. What a powerful message. Words and actions no matter how big or small can have lasting effects on people, and we'd all do well to remember that.

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