Make Room For The Stuttering

Bullying Is (Still) A Big Deal

Posted on: March 12, 2010

This week, I co-presented a 3- hour training to educators on bullying prevention in schools. We will deliver the second 3- hour session next week. Our audience was K-8 teachers, school counselors and social workers, psychologists and several principals.  This was a program that these educators signed up for and chose to attend, and they represented diverse districts served by our BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services).

Everyone talked about what a pervasive problem bullying is in schools, and people were looking for strategies to use to help curb the bullying behavior, but also help the kids being bullied feel less anxious and more empowered to stand up for themselves. We had an ambitious agenda. My building assistant principal and myself originally volunteered to present a two-hour session to our own staff. That evolved into us being asked to develop it into a 6-hour session so the educators could get professional development (CEU) credit for attending.

It became a big deal training, but deservedly so, because bullying is a big deal. Some of the schools indicated they do not have consistent anti-bullying policies in place. Most mentioned they are truly concerned for the well-being of kids being bullied, since the incidences of adolescence depression leading to suicide continues to rise.  A school not far from us is still reeling from the suicides of FIVE students last year. All five girls had been bullied repeatedly before choosing to end the pain in the most final way.

Our session was successful, in that we got people talking and sharing ideas. We ended with a powerful group exercise. We gave everybody two strips of pink paper and asked them to recall a time when they had been picked on or bullied, and asked them to consider forgiving the person. We also asked them to recall a time when they did the teasing or bullying, and consider saying “I’m sorry”. One by one, each adult came up, read their memories and forgave or apologized. It was a powerful moment. It was a hard moment. We created links out of all the pieces of paper and chained them together as one long adult chain against bullying.

People commented how hard this was to do, and we discussed how hard it is for adults to ask kids to apologize or forgive. Participants mentioned that they think it would be a good modeling activity to do with students.

Afterward, one man came up to me and mentioned that he was surprised that I mentioned stuttering, and stuttered openly during my presentation. He said he had stuttered as a kid, a lot some years, a little others. He said it depended on how comfortable he felt with his teachers. He said he still stutters sometimes now as an adult. And he thanked me.

A teacher asked me if it would be OK if she had the counselor at her school contact me about a boy who stutters severely and who is being bullied unmercifully because of it. She wondered if I might be willing to come to their school and do a talk on stuttering.

We never know who we might impact. This talk was not about stuttering, but people asked me questions throughout about stuttering, and I was OK with it. So were they!

2 Responses to "Bullying Is (Still) A Big Deal"


I’m just so impressed to read about the training you’re providing on bullying prevention in schools. I would imagine that all children get teased and bullied at some stage so your training program has huge relevance.

However, I suspect that children who stutter are particularly likely to be targets of bullying since they stand out as being obviously different. I know that I was endlessly bullied both at school and in the various places where I lived. I retreated into silence because in silence lay safety … or safety of sorts.

What we tend to forget, as adults, is that children have a phenomenal capacity to hurt and also to be hurt. When you’re a child, you believe what is said to you and you believe too that you deserve what is done onto you. The degree of fear felt by a child is unparalleled in later life as is a child’s sense of aloneness, confusion and helplessness. As adults, we often don’t have an adequate appreciation of this.

Speaking for myself, I still have vivid nightmares during which I’m forced to relive some of the experiences I had as a child. However, I remember too the times when an adult helpfully intervened or showed me understanding and kindness. If your training helps even one child to receive appropriate support, then you will have made a big difference. I’m sorry this comment is so long but I just wanted to commend you for your great work.

I admire you on presenting on such an important topic. I commend you and hope you keep doing it. I think this is so important. I have heard many special needs kids whose parents have pulled them out of school due to bullying. It breaks my heart and the public needs to know. Keep up the good work. Thank you for sharing this Pam.

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