A Monday WOW Moment!
Posted March 1, 2011on:
I had a great experience yesterday at my school that I wanted, well needed, to share. Two weeks ago I did a workshop at a library called “An Un-Royal Talk About Stuttering: Lessons from The King’s Speech”. It was free and open to the community and we had close to 50 people there. One of them present was a colleague of mine, who had seen the movie, knew I stuttered and was really interested in learning more. She also brought her mother.
She came to me the next day and asked if I would do a similar presentation to the Adult LPN classes, one today and the other one, in a more remote location, next week. She felt students preparing to work in the medical field could benefit from hearing this information from someone who lives it every day. I was nervous, but agreed.
I changed the presentation slightly to adapt to a nursing student’s point of view but planned to keep it close to what I had already done, so I didn’t have more work to do.
One of the first things I started with was the question how many in the class had seen the movie! ZERO! These are all working adults with families who take a demanding and intensive LPN course in 10 months and have little time to breathe, let alone watch a movie.
So I quickly changed my focus, and started telling MY story, hoping they wouldn’t be bored to tears. I shared about my covert years, why I chose that, the hidden feelings of shame and my reluctance to ever show emotion and vulnerability, in addition to stuttering publicly. I shared how I got fired, there was a collective gasp, they wanted to know wasn’t that illegal, etc. I started getting emotional, and one of the teachers brought me the Kleenex box!
Then I shared how my family had NEVER talked with me, or about stuttering, so it was always hard to talk about. I talked about how profoundly my life changed when I was fired and how I decided I wasn’t going to pretend anymore. I was going to let ME out.
You could have heard a pin drop in the room. I noticed and heard a few sniffles. At one point, I asked if anyone knew anyone who stutters, or does anyone stutter. One young woman in her 20’s raised her hand – she said , “I stutter” with tears streaming down her face.
I asked if her class knew, they were all looking now, and she said no, not until that moment. Her classmates then applauded. One girl said, “I thought so, but you are always so quiet, I wasn’t sure”. Heads were nodding and the girl who had disclosed smiled and looked OK.
I started talking about what stuttering is and what it isn’t, and the teacher in the room asked if it drove me insane if people finished my words for me. I smiled and said yes, she said, that as nurses, they are inclined to just want to help.
I then described the different ways stuttering can manifest, and when I got to sometimes people will use lots of filler words, like uhm, and that I used to do that, another hand went up, and a woman said, “OMG, that’s exactly what my 14-year-old son does, all the time. Maybe he stutters. I keep telling him to slow down, take a deep breath”, and she asked what I thought of that. I smiled and said that’s generally not helpful.
She looked concerned and asked out loud, “have I been making it worse for him?” and I said “if we could, we would”. She said she was going to talk to her child about it. She whispered “thank you” to me.
Towards the end, we were running out of time. We had not talked about the movie at all. I showed 1 minute of the 2 minute trailer. They got it. I then asked them if they had ever heard of Porky Pig, and what was he known for. They all knew. They stayed 10 minutes over, which the teachers told me they NEVER do. And they gave a huge applause at the end.
Several came up to me privately, and one more admitted she stutters and is dyslexic but has not told anyone, and that she “got me”. She said she has felt such a huge disconnect, but felt connected with my story as soon as I started telling it. She started crying as we spoke privately and she said she never heard anything this courageous as a teacher standing up in her school telling this story. She kept saying over and over “I got you.”
Who would have thought? 40 students in this Adult class, 2 stutter and one has a child who stutters.
This was a WOW moment for me and I wanted to share it!