Recently, there’s been a HUGE push in schools to address problems with bullying.

There’ve been suicide videos, the most recent from a girl named Amanda Todd, and bullying and suicide seems to have really reached a peak in terms of social consciousness.

Parents and educators are really feeling compelled to do something about the ‘epidemic’.

One of the best things about being a writer is that you can always turn your skills to addressing any issue in the world that you feel strongly and passionately about.

And when you see efforts being wasted, or sometimes backfiring, you can speak out and address these issues.

Bullying has always been an important cause to me.

Comes from being so relentlessly bullied when I was young, I guess.

I already had a presentation that dealt with bullying and suicide. Called ESL to Author, it was an hour presentation about the writing of my book Dahling if You Luv Me Would You Please Please Smile. This is a book I felt compelled to write after a classmate in grade eight attempted suicide.

With all the focus on bullying, I thought maybe the title of that presentation wasn’t giving educators enough insight into what I was really tackling in the presentation–bullying and suicide.

And I started to think that the presentation needed to be overhauled, and refocused.

And I wondered how.

One of the things that annoys me the most about all these well-meaning anti-bullying initiatives is that they’re all so FOCUSED on the bullies!

In the bully/victim equation, the BULLY is the LEAST likely to want to change!

Why would they have any incentive?

The bullying might just be ‘working’ for them.

They might just like it!

They might get off on the sense of power, or whatever.


I’ve always felt that it makes a LOT  more sense to focus on the VICTIM.

EMPOWER the victim to STAND up to the bully, and fight the phenomena that way.

The VICTIM has a LOT more INCENTIVE to change!

But in order to do that I thought I need to provide a proper step by step process.

One of the things that used to bug me as a kid watching all these movies about bullying and stuff, is that they so seldom contained PRACTICAL advice!

I basically wanted them to say: Do this and this and this and it will STOP! You will be safe. Most of the time they just said stuff like ‘don’t run away’ and ‘confront your problems’. Nonsense. Doesn’t work when the bully’s a big strong guy or when you’re outnumbered, like I so often was.

So in putting together my new presentation, I kept what worked well in the old presentation–basically talking about my experience of being bullied, and ADDED a whole section on HOW I changed so that I’m not a VICTIM any more.

It took a LOT of analysis!

I had to figure out how I’d done it. I had to understand what was really a gradual process that had taken me about three decades to accomplish and boil it down to something that would fit in an hour presentation.

A very tall order!

I remember when I first started presenting to classes! I’d never be able to sleep the night before, for fear I would flop the next day!

For the longest while though, I have solidified my presentations. Worked the bugs out of them so that they flow smoothly and are reliable in their ability to both entertain and educate audiences.

But here was almost a whole new presentation!

And having been so busy the last few weeks, you know that I didn’t finalize what I was going to say in the actual GET THE BULLY OFF YOUR BACK presentation until I absolutely had to. That is until I had to do the presentation!

Well that was today.

Couldn’t sleep hardly at all last night.

Kept telling myself it would be fine, it would be fine.

Didn’t help.

Got to the school in plenty of time.

Prepared some flip chart paper (a dumb idea but I hadn’t had time to put together a powerpoint!) with the key notes I wanted to cover on it, and proceeded!


It went so well, masha Allah!

Better than I could have hoped for!

And this audience was no piece of cake.

They were a rowdy bunch of 11- 13 year olds that took several minutes to settle down with the librarian. Both sets of the audiences were equally rambunctious.

But as soon as I started talking—Woh! Silence!

I had them, no problem!  Masha Allah.

And yup, when I got to the part about the suicide–many of the kids looked out the corners of their eyes to see which of their friends were watching them.

Happens every time.

These are kids who have thought about killing themselves.

About twenty to thirty per cent of each group.

Yup. Happens every time.

Doesn’t matter if I’m presenting to a rich school or a poor school. The percentages are about the same.

I was honestly surprised at how well it went.

The librarian was so sweet! She even had lunch ready for me and some avid readers.

I didn’t tell them that it was the first time I’d performed this incarnation of the presentation. But I did ask them if they had any suggestions.

One of the girls said, “Nope. It was perfect.”

That was surprising. I didn’t argue with her. I’ve learned you shouldn’t. It destroys the magnanamous nature of the compliment! But to myself, I made a note to ditch the chart paper and make a powerpoint instead!

But what was even more surprising was after lunch, after I’d done the older group, the grade eights, this one girl walking out said to me, “You are beautiful.”


I have no idea whether she meant physically or just what I was wearing. I was wearing a beautiful floral silk scarf I’d picked up in China and it did match well with the royal blue shalwar kameez I had on.

Not sure.

I have a hard time believing compliments. I guess it’s because I really don’t think of my looks as my strongest asset. Never really have.

Oh well.

It was definitely one of those days when I was driving home thinking, “Subhan Allah! I get paid to do this!!!”

It’s nice when that happens!