By Stan Friedman
FARMINGTON HILLS, MI (March 11, 2012) – Many of the students who meet with elementary school counselor Susan Fitzsimonds come with the same problem – they are being bullied, are frightened, and have no idea how to respond.
Part of the Faith Covenant Church member’s response has been to write The Hero in Me. Fitzsimonds says she wrote the book using “fun language” as a way for kids to learn techniques for dealing with bullies and to develop self-confidence. There are activities and a “Hero’s Guide” on the website connected with the book. Click here to order the book from CovBooks.com.
It is important for kids to have a plan ahead of time in the event they are bullied, says Fitzsimonds. ‘Preparing is good because trying to think of something in the heat of the moment is difficult.”
The preparation includes working on building confidence. Children are capable of doing more than they think, Fitzsimonds says.
“Confidence is a skill that can be taught,” she adds. “Even if you don’t feel confident, act confident. It will come,” she counsels her students.
The book follows one student’s journey of learning confidence and speaking up to a bully.
One of the techniques Fitzsimonds recommends to students is to “Say your piece and then walk away. Don’t stay and try to argue. Bullies generally don’t chase.”
Fitzsimonds also demonstrates concern for the bullies, 85 percent of whom have witnessed some form of bullying or abuse themselves, she says. She adds that bullies sometimes act out in response to changes in their lives.
As a bullied student develops confidence, they can ask the bully why they are engaging in the cruel behavior. In the book, she writes, “He might be surprised you decided to ask. His true self is hiding in his bully mask.”
Fitzsimonds says the activities she writes about in the book have worked time and time again. She started as an educator 11 years ago as a second grade teacher. She also pursued a master’s in counseling degree and now specializes in child and adolescent therapy.
Fitzsimonds says she wrote the book in snippets over four months. It took another 16 months to edit and for the artist to illustrate the story.
Hero is the counselor’s first book. “I never saw myself as a writer, but I’m passionate about helping kids who have been bullied,” she says.
She is now considering writing a book on another form of bullying. “Cyber bullying is a huge problem,” she says. “It can cause as great or more damage to the victim.”
Ken Larson, pastor of Faith Covenant, agrees. “A middle school teacher/administrator told me that cyber bullying occupies more disciplinary time than any other issue in her school.”
Fitzsimonds is increasingly being asked to speak in schools, churches, and with other organizations.