I recently had the pleasure of speaking to over 700 students at a York Region School. It was both an honour and a pleasure to be talking with the younger generation on two topics that I believe to be so important in the lives of our youth.

Bullying is more prevalent than it has ever been, and mental health struggles now plague a disturbingly large number of tweens, teens and young adults. My presentations touch on several critical concepts including equality, what it means to have a voice, prioritizing happiness, and talking as a powerful tool we can use in our daily lives.

Visualizing bullying in a unique way

For both of the in-school presentations I did (Kindergarten to Grade 3s and Grade 4s to Grade 8s), I used blocks, like the ones in the image to bring to life the concept of being stronger and better through the formation of groups and community. I demonstrated how talking openly and fostering an environment of acceptance can fuel a greater sense of happiness for everyone. And how everyone is invited, and ought to, talk openly about whatever it is they are going through – from the bullied, to the bully, to the bystander, to the one struggling mentally, to the concerned friend.

Talk for Kindergarten to Grade 3

For these littler ones, I spent more time focusing on how we can define bullying, how it makes people feel and why it’s wrong. I likened us all as mere blocks in this world together, who may look different from one another, but at our very cores, we are the same. Speaking about their “voice”, I walked them through the importance of talking openly and why they should want to. Finally, I walked them through a fun craft they could do with a sibling or parent at home and invited them to channel their inner super heroes the next time they feel stuck.

Take a quick look.

Talk for Grade 4 to Grade 8

For the older grades, I focused more on the importance of communication and human connection. I took the students through questions centred around how they really want to feel in their lives. And I honed in on a few of the most high profile cases of bullied children who later took their lives as a result of the torment they had been through. Towards the end, I provided easy and straightforward tips about how to start talking openly even when they might feel stuck.

Here’s a sneak peek.

The takeaway

I found this experience to be so enriching and rewarding. After each presentation, I had a few students approach me to say how much they enjoyed the presentation, and a couple asked me where they could buy my book. Teachers gave me positive feedback and the Vice Principal of the school told me how well my talk was received and eluded to the fact that there would be more opportunities for me in the future.

Looking forward to next school year, when I can pursue this avenue further!