PS 29 John M. Harrigan School | 425 Henry St | Brooklyn, NY 11201 | (718) 330-9277800-123-456

Principal’s Message

Rebecca’s Read Aloud Letter, January 2018

Dear Families,

As you know, we launched our school-wide read aloud program this fall with a very special text and message consistent with our vision at 29 that all of our students ought to feel like they belong and can be appreciated andcelebrated for their unique qualities.

We’re All Wonders is written and illustrated by R.J. Palacio, who also wrote Wonder, a beloved chapter book and source of inspiration for Palacio’s newest picture book. In this text, 10-year-old Auggie feels like any other kid – he has a dog, rides a bike, eats ice cream and plays ball. However, on the outside, Auggie doesn’t look ordinary: he has only one eye, no nose or mouth. While his mother calls him “unique” and “a wonder,” others only see only what’s on the outside and deride him for his looks.

Auggie has a profound understanding that everyone is different, and everyone is a wonder – if they could only see it. This powerful idea is at the crux of some of the work that we hold near and dear at PS 29. We began our school year together learning from Brandy Stanfill of the ASD Nest Support Project at NYU who facilitated a discussion on neuro-diversity, the very notion that each and every one of us is unique at the most fundamental level (i.e., our brains are all wired differently) and thus it is the ever-challenging work of schools and educators to serve the diverse needs of our students. We will continue working with Ms. Stanfill throughout this school year.

Earlier this fall, Lori Riddick of Raising Race Conscious Children facilitated a conversation with our staff and families about the value behind holding space in our classrooms and homes to talk explicitly about race and other forms of identity with our children. Ms. Riddick is returning on Monday, January 8th for a second workshop with our staff. Ultimately, it is our hope that these tools and practices will better support our students with feeling proud of their identities and appreciating one another’s differences in and out of school.

Palacio’s message that we’re all so very different and yet there’s so much that’s the same is what our children discover every day. We value social emotional learning and consider the infinite ways to teach our children how to be better people when they’re together and apart. Every day, we think about how to send the message that despite our differences in race, learning style, gender identity, mental or physical abilities and so much more, we’re one community. At the end of the day, each and every one of our students wants to feel loved and have access to learning opportunities.

As we’ve noted many times before, we have the privilege and responsibility of teaching children from as young as age three through eleven. How wonderful would it be if all of our students could discover, appreciate, andhonor their truest selves during these precious, foundational years?

We’ve been applying this text across our school, using it as an entry point to teach into inclusive practices and being our best, most compassionate selves. We took our 4th and 5th graders to see the movie, Wonder (based on the original book by Palacio) in the movie theater, and we know that many of our families have had the opportunity to watch this extraordinary film, too, over the past several weeks.

Perhaps Martin Luther King, whose birthday we honor next week, said it best: “The time is always right to do what is right.” It is our hope that collectively at 29 we are teaching our children to live up to these ideals.


Rebecca, Halee, and Dawn

Rebecca’s Safety Letter, October 2017