Using Mr. Brown’s Precepts to Engage the School Community

One of my goals for this school year is to be more present in the school. It’s not that I was away a lot. Rather, I am aiming to make my presence more known in a couple of ways. One strategy is through increasing my frequency of walkthroughs and classroom visits. I have a formidable goal of 300 walkthroughs for the year, or around 100 per trimester.

The other way I plan on increasing my presence is through morning announcements. Right now my school counselor facilitates this daily event. This is great, and I am just looking to join her more frequently with some words of wisdom.

IMG_3674My source of wisdom is 365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Brown’s Book of Precepts, written and edited by R.J. Palacio. This is a companion to the book Wonder by the same author. In the story, Mr. Brown is a featured teacher in the school where the main characters attend. He has quotes that serve as monthly precepts, or principles, which are shared and posted once a month. In this text, some of the quotes are from historical figures, and others are from the fictional characters within Wonder. Last year, one of my assistants posted selected precepts on our school marquee once a month. The response was positive from the community.

I have taken this idea and applied it at the schoolwide level by sharing a precept or two each week. I will read it aloud two times on one day via our PA system, and encourage the school community to ponder what the precept means to them. I will follow up on another day by sharing my own interpretation of what the message is all about and means to me.

Actions may speak louder than words, but that doesn’t mean what we say, read, and write are any less important. Language can create visuals and meanings for someone in unique ways. Word choice can “ground” an idea and make it more understandable, according to George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, authors of Metaphors We Live By (University of Chicago, 1980). Analogies and other forms of figurative language provide frames in which we understand the abstract through a concrete lens. We live our lives through words, embodying them in our interactions with others and in our personal habits.

So the school community can visibly see the precepts I share over announcements, I sequestered a bulletin board. Already covered in black paper and a border that represents our school colors, I use a metallic marker to write the precept on the board, located right across from where students line up for lunch. As the year progresses, I will continue to add to our collection and reference them as needed.


The board title is a take on Lakoff’s and Johnson’s resource. The first of Mr. Brown’s precepts I wrote serves as a mantra for Wonder:

When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.

-Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

This is a quote I referenced in my last post. I imagine we will revisit this precept throughout the school year.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an 18-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher in Rudolph, WI. He now serves as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District ( Matt also teaches online graduate courses in curriculum design and instructional leadership for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD ( and Lead Literacy (

9 thoughts on “Using Mr. Brown’s Precepts to Engage the School Community”

  1. My yr 6 students have read the book Wonder, & so have I. It was interesting to observe the range of responses from the students. I look forward to reading 365 days of wonder, thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you ever have time, please share the students’ responses with others. I’d be interested in what they have to say on these important topics about acceptance and growing up.


  2. I love this idea, Matt! What a great way to engage your school community in both literacy skills, thinking, and social emotional learning. As a teacher, it’s really important to me to have a principal who is engaged in the school community and really making an effort to connect with students. Thanks for sharing it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Samantha. So far I have had a very positive response from the students and staff, which motivates me to share more quotes over the PA. I’ve started expanding on a quote if it really resonated with me, sharing a personal story with the students and staff. You are correct – this activity is addressing the social-emotional side of school, which should be intertwined with our academics.


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