Wear Pink. Stop Bullying.
It’s time to find your favourite pink sweater, shirt or tie, because this Wednesday is Anti-Bullying Day – aka Pink Shirt Day. Why pink? In 2007 two high school students from Nova Scotia took a stand against bullying by giving out pink t-shirts at school after a grade nine peer was harassed for wearing – you guessed it – a pink shirt. Inspired by this act of heroism Pink Shirt Day was born to raise awareness of an issue that still permeates our society. Schools all across the country will be showing their support by organizing assemblies and activities – sporting pink. However, this initiative is meant to reach beyond the classroom, to the home, workplace and the community at large. Vicki Fraser is another champion who has taken a stand against bullying. This elementary teacher from Laval, Quebec has written her debut, award-winning picture book Dear Bully of Mine, illustrated by Cody and Sean McGrath and published by Domnizelles Publications. In an interview with the anti-bullying crusader herself, we got the scoop on her new book and thoughts on bullying. Here’s what she had to say: What inspired you to write a book on bullying? A couple of years ago, I had shown my students some different video clips as part of an anti-homophobia activity that we were working on. After seeing the videos, the students were asked to write a response to what they had just seen. I often write along with my students. During this period of writing, I came up with a rather long poem about different children being bullied. I put it aside after that, but came back to it and worked on it quite a bit. The poem turned into the manuscript for Dear Bully of Mine. My students are my inspiration. I am fortunate enough to have their trust and I work very hard to be someone they can count on. I want my students to feel safe and excited about coming to school. Did your background as a teacher influence this book? Absolutely. When students come to see me because they are in pain, it stays with me. I wanted the book to share these very honest and real stories. Though it may be emotionally challenging to read at times, I wanted those who are being bullied to know that I get it. I know how bad it really can be. They are not alone. Do you think your book has had an impact on bullying to date? I know that it has made an impact on how some students are reacting to being bullied. I have a few students who have told me that they felt stronger after having read the book. They tell me that if kids pick on them now, they know that it isn’t okay and they don’t just have to accept it. They know it is alright to ask for help. Have you received feedback from parents? If so, what kind of feedback have you received? I am completely thrilled with the feedback that I have gotten from parents and teachers thus far. Many people have told me that they have had truly amazing discussions during and after reading the book with their children/students. Many adults have had tear-filled conversations with me during book signings. They shared their own experiences of being bullied as children and the fear they have that their own children will experience that kind of pain. They thank me for giving them a way to start up that conversation. I believe that the book has gotten families and classes talking about bullying, I consider that a pretty great start. As a result of heightened awareness of bullying, has anything changed? I believe that the heightened awareness has made it a little more clear for children to be able to identify bullying if it happens to them or if they witness it happening to others. I think that there is still a lot of work to be done though. In your opinion what still needs to happen to reduce bullying? I think that we need to have conversations about kindness and compassion on a daily basis. I think that the media has to do a little bit more work too. There are too many television shows that make it look cool and funny to make fun of others. I think that parents need to be better educated about how to handle things if they get a phone call that their child has been bullying someone else. I also believe that schools need to come up with a plan to help those who regularly demonstrate bullying behavior. Regular punishment does not change the behavior. What do you hope to accomplish by writing this book? I hope to give a voice to those who have a hard time speaking up. I hope that those who are feeling like they just have to accept being bullied realize that they are stronger than that. I hope to show those who bully how hurtful their words and actions really are. What is next for Vicki Fraser? Well, I was very excited to have a good friend and colleague, Catherine de Merlis, translate Dear Bully of Mine into French. I look forward to it being translated into Spanish so that it can get out into the hands of more children. How to Say Goodbye Forever, coming out this fall. Besides that, I am still teaching full time and loving every second of it! Although Dear Bully of Mine is officially recommended to students in grades 2 to 8, there is much that parents and educators can learn on how to open the conversation on bullying. It empowers students to have a voice and to end their silence. To conclude with a quote from the book, “I have one last wish you for you, Dear Bully of Mine…Become the person you are TRULY meant to be, Develop compassion and kindness in time.” Joanne Sallay Joanne Sallay is a Director at Teachers on Call, a personalized home tutoring service with more than 25 years of experience. Teachers on Call’s Ontario Certified Teachers specialize in providing one-on-one instruction in all subjects and grades including French Immersion tutoring. For further information about Teachers on Call, please visit: www.teachersoncall.ca Like Teachers on Call on FacebookFollow Teachers on Call on Twitter