Teaching Wonder
Students Get a Special Lesson in Kindness
Posted on 12/13/2017

Megan Brown, CK High School Class of 2011, recently had her 123rd speaking engagement with an audience that was very close to home: fifth graders at Clear Creek Elementary.

Brown has spoken with audiences in five countries and 42 states by video conference to share her experience growing up with a facial difference—similar to the main character of Wonder, recently adapted into a popular film. She was born with a tumor on her face that has required 15-20 reconstructive surgeries.

Students reading Wonder aloud with their teachers, Becky Secrest and Brian Hardy, discovered one fascinating difference between Brown and the main character “Auggie:” Brown has a fraternal twin sister.

“The doctors would tell me ‘someday you’ll look like your sister,’ but that has never really happened,” Brown told the students while showing them a family portrait.

She was hesitant to read the book at first. “I had heard that the author didn’t have a clear connection to anyone with facial differences,” said Brown. But later, she discovered the author truly had done her research and received positive responses from other people in the facial differences community.

“I fell in love with it and I wanted others to read it because it reflected my own experience,” said Brown. She became so involved with the story that she developed her own anti-bullying message and provided consultation to the filmmakers of Wonder.

"I decided to do these speaking sessions because I want to connect students to the fact that Auggie Pullman is more than just a character in a book and movie but there are people out there in real life that go through very similar challenges and experiences just like him,” said Brown. “I am one of those people."

Teaching Wonder

Wonder is a great book about building empathy for those that appear different and teaches how we treat each other matters,” said Secrest. She and Hardy are reading the book aloud so their students gain skills in addition to compassion and empathy.

Reading aloud is a research-based method of improving fluency and comprehension, said Secrest. “It also allows students who may not read higher level text to access text above their independent reading level,” she said. “We are able to stop as we read to ask questions, allow the students to discuss points with others.”
A student holding a copy of the book Wonder.

Secrest knew of Brown and saw an opportunity to broaden her student’s connection to the story. She invited her to speak, and Brown was willing to answer any questions the students had for her.

“Did you wear a mask like Auggie?” No, that would get pretty smelly. “What is your favorite sport?” Brown played soccer in high school. “What’s your favorite author?” Charles Dickens.

“Now I know she’s just like me!” said one student. The students were learning to connect not by the way we look, but by our actions.

Teaching Kindness

Many students asked Brown was what it felt like to be bullied or teased. Her answer, “You can’t control how others treat you, but you can control how you treat others, and show kindness back to them.”

“That wasn't the expected or traditional answer and that's part of why I loved it,” said Secrest. “She was encouraging our students to always be kind, which is the overall theme of Wonder, ‘choose kind.’”

In addition to Clear Creek, Brown has spoken with students at Hawk Elementary and the Silver Ridge Elementary, and will continue to spread the message of kindness in future speaking engagements. “I truly feel like it’s my calling,” said Brown.