They aren't getting it.
They aren't getting it.
I've got to come up with something new.
Think. Think. Thinkthinkthink.
In a theatre in Simcoe, I'm in front of an audience of just over 60 people with intellectual disabilities. They come from the local schools as well as from the local community living associations. I am doing an workshop on Bullying and Teasing - something that everyone in the room is familiar with. We are having fun as the workshop is designed to have a lot of laughter, maximum participation and loads of learning. But they aren't getting one of the primary concepts I want them to walk out with. The way I typically teach it hasn't worked. I can see that.
I've got to come up with something new. An idea begins to form in my head. It's worth a shot.
I bring the room to quiet. Joe glances over, he knows the rhythm of the workshop, he is startled by the quiet. I look over the group solemnly. "I get teased all the time," I announce, "I want you to guess why I am teased."
They grow uncomfortable. They don't want to guess. They don't want to seem mean. I ask them again to guess. One fellow at the front puts his hand up as says, "Because you are big?" I say, "Yes, I'm big, but that's not why I'm teased." Now others are curious, "Because you are in a wheelchair," calls one, "because you are bald," calls another. I tell them that they are right about the wheelchair, right about me being bald, but that's not why I'm teased. They then start using other words for the same thing, "fat" "disabled" "old" ... yes I am, but no not why I'm teased.
I said, "Let me see if I can help you guess by giving you a hint. I am fat all the time, I am in a wheelchair all the time, I am bald all the time, but I'm not teased all the time. Figure out why I am teased some of the time but not all the time and you'll figure out why I'm teased."
I can feel all of you shaking your head and thinking 'that's way to complex a question for people with disabilities' ... no, it's not. Once you get them going, get them focused and get them learning, they are capable of understanding much more than you expect. The trouble is too many people dumb down the material for people with disabilites, make it so dim as to be dull - like with anyone else, interest increases IQ.
The answer dawns on a boy of about 13, he puts his hand up but slowly stands up at the same time. The group, as one, turns to him. He's beaming with realization, "You are only bullied when a bully is there, when there is no bully, there is no teasing. It's not because you are fat, it's because a bully bullies you." He starts to cry, his hands cover his face, he knows what this means. It means that all the hell he's gone through isn't about him, all the names he's been called aren't about him, that it's the bully who does it, who causes it, who is responsible for it. People are crying all over the room. They get it and get it big. The release of self blame, the letting go of shame, is a group experience.
One person applauds and then the whole room is cheering. I'm glad that they are looking at him because I'm crying.
He got it.
They got it.
I hope you do too.