It's always an honour to do workshops for people with disabilities. I remember when I was first asked to do one, I was terrified. But I had misattributed to the audience of disabilities things that were not true - they are a generous audience who genuinely wish you well. They have an internal kind of crowd control that is amazing. And when entrusted with real information given in a lively fashion, they react with enthusiasm and even, on occasion, joy.
Such was today's experience in Simcoe. I did a sesson on bullying and teasing with nearly 50 people with disabilities. Though the topic was dark, the stories darker, I try to keep the subject light and funny. We do role plays, we work through problems, we agree that while it's not always safe outside, it will be safe in here with us. Several people talked about their experiences with being called 'Retard,' 'Moron,' and other hurtful names.
My biggest job at these times is to teach without my anger showing through. To ensure that they all, every single one of them, has strategies for dealing with the real world and the outrageously mean people who inhabit it. They pulled together and supported one another.
At one point a young person was up beside me, I'd asked him a question about bullying, and it was clear he was a bit confused. When a teacher tells him to do something he doesn't want - that's not bullying. When his mom nags him to clean up his room - that's not bullying.
What makes someone a bully?
He looked at me, seriously. "When they hurt you on purpose. When they plan to hurt you. When they use words that make your throat ache."
There was quiet in a room.
"Yes, that's a bully," I said.
"When I was little," he said in a quiet little voice, "my mother said there were no monstors. She was wrong."
"And ..." I prompted.
"I'm better than they are."