Transcending limitations – living the dream
An anniversary tribute
In recent years my world had transcended above and beyond the prison of my mind. I learned to find my voice and break the cycle of bullying I passively accepted for most of my life in my personal relationships. Life now has a whole new feeling of joy (which is why I legally changed my last name to DiGioia ~ it means joy)! With acute awareness I coincidentally learned that my students at school with special needs (autism) were experiencing bullying and found my life’s calling: “Caring and Courageous Kids” in 2009. I have a dream that one by one, family by family, classroom by classroom we can discover the power within each one of us to help break the cycle of bullying by inspiring a more compassionate culture. Over the years I offered a diversity of activities and ways to help all the students, staff, and parents learn how to have a happier, safer, and more peaceful school environment where I previously worked. Strangely, I often felt a resistant push from some of the newer admins who came on board. And there were certain staff members who were less than enthusiastic to the “changes” I offered. Yet I continued joyfully with my work as the children at school enthusiastically let me know how much they appreciated my help and ideas, along with a small number of teachers. I had regular visits from children bringing me pictures they drew, or letters they wrote, or just coming by to connect! It was incredibly rewarding to know how I was affecting change and helping children feel safer and happier in our elementary school!
Over the three years there were many things offered from story-times in the classroom (with followup discussions on the issues of bullying & disability awareness), to after-school classes, to recess hangouts (a recess-alternative time where we did art, stories, games, learning sign language, etc.), to assemblies, and more. At one point there was talk that I was to be hired as a part-time counselor because of my dedication to the emotional and physical well-being of children. That quietly went away “due to financial reasons.” I was disappointed but thought “there must be something better headed my way!”
Upon returning to the school year in 2012 as a speech-language therapist (for 7 years), I was given a directive. I was told by my employer to stop talking about bullying because “it’s not my job.” I told my boss that I had just spent a lot of time and money on producing a movie for my school. She said I couldn’t show it. I asked if she would take a look at it before saying no. Again I was told “it’s not my job”. I learned that they were going to get Olweus trainers to come to our school. As an advocate and supporter of Olweus I said “great- I would love to be on the committee.” You guessed: “it’s not my job.” After weeks of attempts at trying to convince them otherwise, and citing CA state law and special education laws regarding why I disagreed I was asked to come in to the office and told to sign a document stating that I would not address bullying during the school day and would stop all related activities. I was a bit in shock to say the least. I’ll never forget every jaw dropping when the kids came to see me during recess for “Peace Project” and I had to say we can’t do Peace Project anymore. They started crying and I did too. In the days that followed, children continued to come to me for help and I remember feeling conflicted because of the document I signed and yet it went against every grain of me that I had practiced and taught for three years. Stand up and never be silenced. Silence allows bullying to continue. Even renowned programs as Olweus is that it is everyone’s responsibility to step up to help stop bullying-everyone from the bus driver’s to the kitchen cook have a responsibility. I knew I could take this on as a challenge and yet I saw an open door and I knew there were better things ahead.
It’s difficult to imagine why people can be so heartless but as we all know, bullying exists at all levels. It can be peer to peer whether it’s child to child or adult to adult. And one thing I learned is that using our voice is what creates change. “The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” (Socrates) They didn’t understand that my commitment was a passion ablaze, and though they tried to blow me out and silence me, after re-examination I realized I must make an important decision. I could be silenced and try to fight, or I could go out into the world and find where my expertise and passion was welcomed. The irony was, when I tried to report certain staff for bullying, nothing was ever done, except I was bullied for it. We have such a long way to go.
Anniversary: October 1st, 2012 marks the first anniversary of a memorable day for me. How fitting that it is the first day of “Bullying Awareness Month”. I just realized that! One year ago I resigned from my job as a speech-language therapist for moral and ethical reasons and officially began Caring and Courageous Kids as a full-fledged business. (continue reading below…)
Celebrating my year’s accomplishments:
2013: Over the course of the year some of my proud accomplishments include: I wrote and published my book “One Caring and Courageous Choice at a Time” as a guidebook supplement to my movie (dvd) for elementary school aged children, “Which Team Will You Choose?” I have been a break-out presenter at 3 national conferences, and presented a local workshop with more on the way. I have recently been asked by a local middle school to revive their Safe Schools Ambassadors program. My music and movement therapy classes for special needs children have been steadily growing and I was recently hired to be the trainer by Autistic Programs Foundation of Sacramento for Autism Movement Therapy certification. There are additional things on the horizon which will be announced as they unfold. I am also working on my certification as a Spiritual Life Coach.
2016 update: Since then I have returned to working in the schools. While working at a charter school in Sacramento, CA for two years as a speech-language therapist, I was welcomed by the elementary school principal to teach my “Circles” SEL program to the k-5 students using my movie and the lessons on self-awareness and compassion to help reduce bullying the first year (the kids LOVED it!), and turning to mindfulness as the focus the second year with amazing results. I have also completed the year-long certification program through Mindful Schools and have given three professional development trainings to three different staff trainings in that district when I was asked how to get mindfulness district wide for the coming year. I had already decided to relocate to Central Coast CA where I will be working with preschool age and their parents.
Call to action- will you help?
We have so far to go and yet, one step at a time we CAN make a difference. When I first began CCKids I wondered how I could possibly make a difference against bullying. I soon learned to just begin one caring and courageous choice at a time (thus the title of my book).
So often articles and videos go viral – I was wondering if you would like to participate and help me celebrate my anniversary of standing up to those who tried to silence me by helping my video be seen by those who may be looking for resources. It’s a trailer to my movie for children to help them learn how to stand up to help stop bullying by becoming more compassionate and making choices that go beyond ourselves because it’s the right thing to do. When you view it, please comment and then hit share. That’s it! I have a dream that one by one, family by family, and classroom by classroom we can help children of this generation go beyond wishing bullying would stop to taking compassionate action and standing up and saying, “Stop! No more bullying!” By sharing you could help me get this movie (and guidebook) into the hands of homes and schools everywhere. Help me prove that even everyday people like me can make a difference. Find out why people are making comments like “This film needs to be shown in every school in North America and beyond.”
Please share the link and/or this blog! Peace! Pass it on! Thank you!
UPDATE: August 2016 SPECIAL SAVINGS – -reduced rate and buy one, get one free to share!