Study Guide

Mr. Tushman in Wonder

By R.J. Palacio

Mr. Tushman

Mr. Tushman, the principal of Beecher Middle School, appears at certain key points in the story, but we have the sense that he's always paying attention behind the scenes. In the wake of Jack punching Julian, for instance, Mr. Tushman doesn't expel him automatically, despite rules that would permit him to do so.

Jack isn't able to explain himself, but Mr. Tushman knows that Jack is a good kid and he's pretty sure there is a whole lot of backstory. So he allows Jack to redeem himself by writing letters of apology. He tells Jack to really think about what he has done, and talk it over with his parents.
As Jack and his mom leave the office, Mr. Tushman says something quietly to Jack's mom. It's not spelled out, but we suspect that Mr. Tushman is making allowances because he knows what a terrible time Jack has been having at school because of his friendship with Auggie.

One of Mr. Tushman's most important roles in the story is defending Auggie's right to be a student at Beecher Prep. Julian's mom, Melissa Albans, complains that being asked to befriend "the new child with special needs" was perhaps too great a burden for some kids. Mr. Tushman's written response embodies professionalism, but doesn't pull any punches:

I did not think asking these children to be especially kind to a new student would place any extra 'burdens or hardships' on them. In fact, I thought it would teach them a thing or two about empathy, and friendship, and loyalty. (4.Letters, Emails, Facebook.Texts, 8-9)

Mr. Tushman wants kids to learn to be kind and tolerant of others—period. And of all the kids he asked to help Auggie transition into his new school, Julian is the one who most needed to learn "a thing or two about empathy, and friendship, and loyalty"—just like his mean mom.

This ain't Mr. Tushman's first rodeo, and he's written many a speech and worked many a crowd. But he's never known a kid quite like Auggie. As he presents the final award at the end of the year ceremony, he can't get through his speech without getting choked up. He says:

Not just the nature of kindness, but the nature of one's kindness. The power of one's friendship. The test of one's character. The strength of one's courage… (8.Awards.10)

Mr. Tushman is truly moved by how bravely Auggie has endured, and by Auggie's quiet triumph—and he seems to feel truly honored to present Auggie with the award.