Reflective Essay on the Book “Wonder”
Reflective Essay on the Book “Wonder”
It is important to teach children, and adults, how to accept individuals who have a disability. This eliminates the awkwardness when they encounter such individuals. Exposing children to individuals with different disabilities at a young age teaches them how to be responsible for their actions. Educators can assist with this process by adding a few techniques into their curriculum by tweaking their lessons without any extra work. As an educator becomes more familiar with the adaptations, it will become second nature.
R.J. Palacio’s book, “Wonder” begins with a young teenage boy, August, who has a facial deformity and is about to be mainstreamed into his local middle school. When he first encounters some classmates neither party knows how to act toward one another and it makes for a very awkward situation. One of the boys, Jack, makes August feel more at ease by sitting with him the first day of school while other classmates were staring and whispering. If the students were taught different ways in how to interact with individuals with disabilities, they may not have reacted the way they do. Education along with hands on interaction with an unknown stimulus is the key to a much easier transition.
Reflective Essay About the Book “Wonder”
Description of Character:
Jack is a boy going into the 5th grade at Beecher Prep and is a polite and well mannered young man. He is like every other teenager in America, going through the ups and downs of teen hood. From the beginning of the book, Jack displays nothing but being an all around teen that parents love and peers want to be friends with. Being a teenager, Jack’s emotions and actions are that of an up and down rollercoaster. Jack goes from being a great friend to being ashamed of his actions then back to being a great friend all in one school year. He wants to be a good friend, but peer pressure gets the best of him until he realizes that his good friend wants nothing to do with him. Jack stops hanging out with his good friend because the class bully turns the class against him because of who he is friends with.
The character I chose in R.J. Palacio’s book, “Wonder” is Jack who is going through the ups and downs of being a middle school student. His actions and words, or lack thereof, shows of a boy who is being pulled into two different directions. On one hand he is a loyal friend and the other just another classmate, but throughout the book his struggles take you on the journey back to middle school. From Jack’s earliest experience with August and how frightened he was of him due to his facial deformity to his final experience of being a good friend, is that of dialectic. He shows good character, but gets lost in the middle school drama that most students feel as they are growing up.
How did the disability affect the character’s relationship with August?
August is a classmate of Jack’s who has a facial deformity and is attending a brick and mortar school for the first time. He is extremely apprehensive since he has been homeschooled his whole life and does not have any friends within the area. Jack, on the other hand, has been in this type of environment all his life and has many friends. Jack’s ability to make friends is not difficult, but August on the other hand has much difficulty because of his facial deformity. August is a spectacle wherever he is and at first Jack does not want to be associated with him for that reason. When Jack becomes friends with August he does not see his facial deformity at all, but it soon affects their friendship and Jack realizes he is viewed as a spectacle as well. Having August as a friend is hurting Jack’s social interactions and he distances himself. Guilt and shame begin to get to Jack and he wants his friend back, but August is not that willing too. Jack feels the need to stick up for his friend against the class bully and the two reconcile which in turn makes Jack happy once again. He also feels proud that he and his other classmates no longer saw August as a threat, but as a friend.
How did the character’s view of August change over time?
When Jack first sees August when he was younger he was shocked and he was left with the image of Augusts’ facial deformity. Just as all young children, Jack was not used to those who looked different so all he did saw was stare at August. Once Jack meets August face to face he does not know how to react toward him because he is not sure if it is polite to look at August while speaking or not look at him because of his facial deformity. It is genuine and not one out of disrespect, this shows good character.
As Jack shows August around the school, Julian a classmate tries to make August feel bad about himself. This is when Jack begins to feel pity for August and intervenes by moving on. Once school starts, Jack sits next to August because he is asked to stick by him during his transition to this school. He now feels obligated, but after warming up to August, Jack sees August for who he is and not as a spectacle. Hanging around August was fun and they had a great time, however; Julian made the class think of August as a spectacle.
Jack starts feeling the pressure of having become a spectacle just from hanging out with August so he begins distancing himself. The peer pressure of being teased gets to Jack so the class bully succeeds, but Jack begins feeling bad because August ignores him. Once Jack finds out why August is mad at him, he becomes extremely sad and feels guilty, but this turns quickly into anger as Jack never meant to hurt August. Despite his feeling, Jack begins shifting his anger toward Julian the class bully until Jack takes his bullying too far and Jack punches him. Although Jack feels proud that he stood up for August, he still feels bad because August was still upset with him. Jack is happy he got to be partners with August because he truly misses his friendship. When all their other classmates see August as person and not as a spectacle, Jack feels like a great friend who now has experienced both side of peer pressure. All of these emotions of being scared to be around August to not wanting to be without his friendship show how peer pressure and bullying affects children.
As a teacher, how could you use this book to teach about disabilities?
As a teacher, I would use this book to teach about disabilities within the curriculum from the first day of school. At the beginning of the school year, knowing I would have a student with a disability, I would plan to intertwine what they did throughout their summer break with how different everyone’s summer was. Explaining about differences among peers is critical in the beginning of the school year so no one has to get their feelings hurt or be bullied.
Develop an activity to go along with the book.
Have a lesson about bullying in the beginning of the school year that works well with not only students with disabilities, but all the students in the class. Begin reading the book and stop at specified parts as you feel fit. Start by arranging the classroom with different written stations different children the students could come in contact with at any given time. Have the class participate in many mini stations throughout the reading of the book in order to show them what is appropriate and inappropriate amongst other children. These display cards will be touched on throughout each section of the book until all the stations have been covered and the book is completed.
Place the students in groups of four to work on a worksheet that builds on teamwork as well as seeing how all the students view one another. In the first station have a display card of a child with a disability and a space to write down possible ways to help this child in school and out of school. Have each group cycle through each station throughout the reading of the book.. In each group the students will decide together how they can assist a classmate with a certain disability. In one activity have a card with a child in a wheelchair then have the group of four students write down all the possible ways in which they can help this child in school and out of school. Each section of the book do another station such as to have a card with a child having a hearing aid for being deaf, have a card with a child with glasses for a child who is blind, have a card with a physical disability such a deformity, have a card with a child that is smaller and one that is taller, and continue to make as many cards as you feel necessary. As the teams work on their worksheets monitor to see if any students are dominate and you can get a better perspective of your students.
Once the station is cycled through, have the students identify together what the difference on each card is and how they as a class should interact with them, focusing on assisting one another. While going through the different cards have the students name out some negative comments that another student may say or do to another. This will touch on the topic of bullying and what is appropriate and inappropriate. Once the lesson is completed keep the display cards up so it is a constant reminder of how to act toward one another. After each station and section of the book ask if there are any questions on how to interact with their fellow classmates.
What was the “take away” for you as an educator after reading and reflecting on this book?
I really enjoyed this book because it uses characters that are in the same age range as their peers and uses real situations that happen in the day to day lives of teenagers. I focused on just two teenage males, Jack and August, throughout this paper, but this book sends a message to children everywhere. It relates to several issues that middle school students come across in everyday life. Learning how to accept those who are different can be a struggle for some because they are faced with peer pressure. This book is written in a way that appeals to children and adults everywhere.
I have not come across many books related to mainstreaming that involves so many emotions, especially teenage males. Teaching middle school can be challenging enough, but when you throw in the up and downs of middle school in things can get a bit chaotic if there is no structure. This book opened my eyes to a few different details regarding teaching those with disabilities and teaching interaction with those who have disabilities. In regards to teaching those with disabilities the educator has to be aware of their student’s actions. It would have been nice for the teacher go around the room so everyone could get to know each other a little bit, since it was the first day of middle school. This way it would give August a chance to tell his classmates what he likes to do for fun and show them that he is just like them, just with different features. On the other hand, would this draw more attention to August and his facial deformity?