Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Monster's On Alert

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."

Job done.


Uniqueisfab said...

Wow! that's such a good description of bullying. My heart stopped for a second reading it- just brilliant.

Your blog has just added to a news item here in the UK about a new TV presenter on CBBees ( programes for young children) who has a shortened arm.
Some parents have written to the BBC to say she scares their children.The presenter was on breakfast telly this morning saying that she wasn't surprised as disabled people get this type of comment all the time. The vast majority of emails where supportive of her saying its a great opportunity to teach people about difference.
Good on you BBC!

Anonymous said...

Hey Dave,

I am wondering if you ever do this presentation for kids and teens? It'd be great for my son to attend,if you ever do one in Saskatoon. I do a lot of role play with him, and he is getting pretty good at sticking up for himself, but I think it would be much more meaningful for him, to learn in an environment with other kids and young teens who experience bullying.
Please let me know,thanks.
My e-mail is dhamp@sasktel.net

Anonymous said...

Here Here!