BEN'S BULLY-FREE ZONE
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Ben is more than simply an award-winning author; he is a anti-bully week speaker, communicating via video conference with schools across the nation with a unique take on the complex issue of bullying and how it impacts individuals and the community as a whole. His ability to connect with youth through laughter and honest communication has helped students overcome bullying and provides hope to those who have been victims.
Ben’s willingness to be vulnerable about his experiences as a boy, coupled with his dynamic message of the dignity in being different, bring genuine moments of breakthrough for students and schools who want more than just an average “don’t bully” presentation.
Touching Spirit Bear referenced on Anderson Cooper
Bullying Special by student who was positively impacted by the book.
A place to celebrate different, gain insight as parents and teachers, access resources for change, and provide support for students.
Thankfully, in the past decade a greater awareness of the dangers and lasting impact of bullying has sparked more conversations and more action.
Initiating significant and lasting change for the good of both the bullied and those who are bullying requires more than a mere "no-tolerance" policy and one week of annual anti-bully programs. Focusing, however arbitrarily, on this complex issue and passing bracelets out seems productive because as adults it makes us feel empowered; at least we are not ignoring the issue, right?
However, those in daily contact with kids who are struggling know in their gut, this is just not quite accomplishing all we had hoped.
Building environments that provide a safe harbor, educational resources, and lasting change, don't come from policies, posters, and rhetoric. True change in a human heart can be messy. It comes from digging deep into the heart of the matter, touching the ugly mess that bullying causes and meeting students right where they are.
Ben Mikaelsen has a driving passion to see more than mere "improvement." He is committed to a cultural shift that grabs students at the heart of the hurt, the core of the problem, for bully and bullied alike.
This is why he writes books like Touching Spirit Bear, which are packed with authentic emotion, which serves as a mirror to the student. Revealing personal vulnerability, anger, fear, or gentleness, whatever it is that needs to come to the surface.
This book has served as a catalyst for change many times over in pre-teens and teens who need to face deep seeded anger and pain. Not just their own pain, but pain they may have caused others. In a People Magazine article on the damage bullying causes, a teacher used Touching Spirit Bear, to reach the heart of the matter in the student involved in bullying, which impacted real change in his heart. We know that behavior follows the intent of the mind and heart.
Ben is a dynamic speaker and has a rapport with students that wins them over. If you, your school, youth organization, or group needs more than just the average "don't bully" message, Ben has a proven track record of influencing positive behavior and facilitating authentic discussion among youths.
It's tough to know this sometimes when you're young, but you deserve to be heard, you deserve to be yourself without fear of repercussions (that means people shouldn't treat you mean just because you are being yourself), and you deserve respect, even if you are "small." In the words of Dr. Seuss, "A person's a person, no matter how small." This applies to any other part of personhood as well. A person deserves to be free to discover who they are, what they are good at (or not good at), and what they do or don't like, in fact, that is actually your job! Growing up has enough challenges without worrying about bullies; physical, verbal, or emotional.
I know a lot about being bullied. I was pushed around, beat up, called names, and intimidated on an almost daily basis during much of my young life. That's why I care so much. I know it hurts. I've cried those tears. And I feel like it's part of my job as a grown up, who is lucky enough to write stories for kids, to help you know you are important and it is ok to be different. In fact, that is one of the best things about life, getting to be who you really are.
So, I invite you to read a few inspiring stories here, maybe write one of your own (sometimes putting how you feel on paper is the fastest way to feel better), know you are not alone, many kids go through being bullied, even though that totally stinks and is super wrong! If you are feeling pressured to join in and bully someone else, you also are not alone. This happens all the time. But you have to decide who you really want to be, how you want to treat people, how you expect them to treat you.
I know, we grown ups always seem to say silly things like just "Say no to bullying", as if that will fix it right up. I understand, it's not exactly that simple. But while we all work together to put a stop to bullying, I hope you can believe, really deep down, that you have value, you are important, and your differences are what make you special.
A MESSAGE TO STUDENTS FROM BEN
A Tribute to Touching Spirit Bear
THE BULLY-FREE BLOG
If you would like to submit a contribution to Ben's Bully-Free Blog, we would love to hear from you. We are looking for personal perspectives, whether student, teacher, parent, or community leader. Your story and your voice matter. Ben is driven to see real discussion, real change, and daily victories in the war on bullying. Contact our blog editor to provide your submissions, we would love to have you participate.