Choose Kind: What I learned from deaf/hard of hearing students and the movie “Wonder”

Last Wednesday, I was honoured to join a group of over 100 Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) students, staff and parent volunteers at a special screening of the movie Wonder. Based on the New York Times bestselling book by R.J. Palacio, Wonder tells the story of August Pullman, a boy with Treacher Collins Syndrome who starts middle school for the first time. August encounters bullying, new friendships and ultimately teaches those around him that it’s ok to be different and that it’s what’s on the inside that truly counts.

The students attending were deaf/hard of hearing, so this version of the movie at North Barrie Cineplex was specially ordered to be open captioned for students. What’s the difference between open captioned and closed captioned? Open captions are always are in view and cannot be turned off, whereas closed captions can be turned on and off by the viewer.

I spoke with Rebecca Flowers, a Grade 5 student at Portage View Public School, about the book and the movie. I was able to communicate with Rebecca via her Interpreter, Kendall Salazar, who used American Sign Language to ask Rebecca questions.

Student holding "Wonder" movie poster
Rebecca shows off her “Wonder” movie poster

“I read the book as well, but liked the movie better,” said Rebecca. “My favourite part of the movie was at the end when Auggie got his award.”

Some of the SCSDB’s Hearing Resources Teachers (HRTs) accompanied students on this special field trip. HRTs are centrally-based special education staff that provide assistance to all schools and support students with hearing loss throughout the SCDSB. The Hearing Resource Team is available for consultation with students, parents and staff.

Melissa McKee is a Hearing Resources Teacher who helped organize the movie trip.

Before the movie began, Melissa encouraged the students to use captioning and advocate for it. She told students: “What makes us different is what makes us awesome, just like the characters in Wonder.”

The movie was heart-warming, inspirational and is a must-see for all humans. And bring the tissues – it will bring you to tears. Numerous times.

Choose kind. Embrace different. Be a wonder!

~ Melanie Rumley, Communications Officer

Commit to Character: Empathy

The SCDSB’s 10 values are a key part of our commitment to character education. We refer to our values as our character attributes. Each month our schools recognize and celebrate a different attribute. This month, we are highlighting ’empathy’.

Empathy: We strive to understand and appreciate the feelings and actions of others

Some examples of how we can show empathy are:

  • listen to what others are saying
  • look someone in the eye when they are communicating with you
  • if someone is feeling down or having a hard time, offer them a hug or other gesture of kindness
  • don’t judge people, gain a deeper understanding of the person and their perspective
  • offer help
  • volunteer

Some ways that students in our schools learn about and develop empathy include:

  • gaining a greater understanding about the importance of recognizing and considering the feelings of others and the impact that our actions can have on these feelings through role-playing
  • using community service hours and additional volunteer time to meet the needs of others who are going through difficult situations and experiences

“How wonderful it is that no one need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” – Anne Frank

Learn more about character education in the SCDSB. 

“There’s math in that”: CCI combines math and tech in unique initiative

Grade 10 students at Collingwood Collegiate Institute (CCI) are currently participating in a TechnoMath initiative as part of the Ministry of Education’s Renewed Math Strategy.

The project combines learning from two courses: Applied Mathematics and Construction Technology. A collaborative hands-on approach connects student knowledge and understanding of mathematics to construction, and shows them how the two relate to one another.

Doug Czerny, technology teacher at CCI, explains, “in the TCJ20 construction course, students focus on using tools safely and effectively, reading drawings properly with accuracy and attention to detail and also on the environmental impact of residential construction through a variety of ‘real world’ projects like the garden shed project. Exploring both fields of study at the same time helps students understand the scope of the trades and the importance of their future roles in the field.”

“Students have the freedom to pursue special projects and work to connect math concepts to prove that there is indeed math in everything we do,” adds Erik Lehmann, mathematics teacher at CCI.

CCI is the only secondary school in the Simcoe County District School Board to have received this funding.





Talented Alliston Union student Jadyn Rylee is a rising pop star

Eleven-year-old Jadyn Rylee is on her way to becoming a famous pop star and household name in Canada as a new member of Mini Pop Kids. A Grade 6 student from Alliston Union Public School, Jadyn has been making an impact in the music scene and on social media for years with her incredible voice and talent.

Her mother, Tara, recorded her singing Miley Cyrus’ ‘The Climb’ at the age of two, and was astounded with how well she could sing. It quickly became a passion of Jadyn’s and she knew that this was going to become a major part of her life.

Tara enrolled Jadyn in the Modern Music Conservatory at the age of six, where she began writing and singing her own songs. Some of these songs were recorded and shared on YouTube, which caught the attention of a Nashville producer. Jadyn and her parents travelled to Nashville to meet with him, and Jadyn started co-writing and recording songs with him immediately.

With her heart as big as her talent, she co-wrote, sang and recorded an anti-bullying song called ‘Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover’, which now has 1.4 million views on YouTube.

“We never thought it would impact so many people,” says Tara. “We were getting comments from teachers all across Canada and the U.S. letting us know that they were playing the video at their schools and using it in their programming as part of their anti-bullying campaigns. Within two months of posting the video, we had one million views.”

With her rapid following and growing confidence, Jadyn and her parents decided to travel to Toronto in January and audition for Mini Pops Kids, a group of youth that record current pop hits, music videos and tour across Canada. Out of 620 kids across Canada, the number was cut to 50 in Toronto and Jadyn made it to the top four. After singing and performing a total of six choreographed dances, she got the call of her life on Canada Day weekend.

“I was so excited!” says Jadyn. “It felt so good to be past the auditions and to find out that I was going to be a Mini Pop.”

Since July, Jadyn has been busy travelling to Toronto on weekends recording music for the upcoming release of the Mini Pops Kids CD (hitting the shelves at Walmart on Nov. 24), participating in photo shoots and music video shoots. She was also part of a live show in Toronto called ‘Girl Expo’, where the Mini Pops Kids performed two songs and took pictures with fans. As busy as her schedule is, she wouldn’t trade it for anything.

“I really like being a part of Mini Pop Kids,” says Jayden. “My family is really proud of me and my friends think it’s pretty cool. It’s so amazing to have fans.”

We are so #SCDSBproud of you too, Jadyn! We have no doubt that you will continue to shine and inspire other youth. Want to hear more of Jadyn’s music? Be sure to follow her on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Commit to Character: Courage

The SCDSB’s 10 values are a key part of our commitment to character education. We refer to our values as our character attributes. Each month our schools recognize and celebrate a different attribute. This month on the blog, we are highlighting ‘courage’.

Courage: We do the right thing even when it’s difficult

Some examples of how we can show courage are:

  • trying new things, even if you might fail
  • working to overcome your fears
  • admitting your mistakes and learning from them
  • refusing to give in to negative peer pressure
  • doing the right thing, even if others are not

Some ways that students in our schools can learn about and develop courage include:

  • helping students to connect being courageous with the goal of putting an end to bullying. Use role playing to help them rehearse situations where they need to stand up for what they know to be the right thing to do
  • prompting students to write a narrative about a character who was faced with a difficult decision, one in which a great deal of courage was required

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.” – Ambrose Redmoon

Learn more about character education in the SCDSB.