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Destination Intimidation: Is Al a Bully?
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 07/06/2015

Bully e

The following is an installment in "The Bouchard 101", a series featuring "Ice Breaker's" designed to promote training awareness and capabilities in the corrections industry.

This is a four-part icebreaker/classroom exercise. It consists of:

Story by facilitator,
Bully story from audience,
Finding solutions.

This icebreaker works well with communications training and harassment awareness modules. I have field-tested this particular icebreaker with impressive results from the audience when delivering my anti-bullying module called Destination Intimidation.

Part one: Definition

To start, you share a definition of bullying. One is provided below. You may use that or, you may construct your own or produce a hybrid.

Bullying - the act of intimidating others through posture, force, threat of force, blackmail, or other physical or psychological means. This is done in order for the intimidator to get his or her own way. It is any level of aggression used on others, subtle, blatant, or otherwise.

Part two: Story by facilitator

Once a definition of choice is laid out, you prepare the audience by telling the story. You may create a story, find one from your experience, or tap into the rich resources online. If you are good storyteller, this is a great icebreaker for you was a facilitator

This is a story that I tell.

Al loved to play baseball. His was a lifelong obsession with the Great American Pastime. As an adult, Al played in a Sunday morning softball league with people from the factory at which he worked. One Sunday, his team which was called the 12 pack, was locked in a close contest with their cross-town rival.

The event was heated. The score was tied. The chatter was deafening. Both teams jeered and hollered at one another. That was no exception when Al stepped to the plate. Al was a very short statured man, though athletically built. The first base man on the opposing team sought to use Al's short stature against him. He yelled, “C’mon little guy. Hit it to me if you can. Aww, ain't he cute? C’mon, little guy.”

Al seemed impervious to the screaming. The first pitch was hurled. Al did not move his bat. The pitch was right down the middle. The umpire called out “Steeerike!” The shouting from the first baseman intensified and drawled in baby talk, “Whaza matter, little guy? Was that too fast for your little self? Slow it down for our little buddy.”

Next, the pitcher lobbed a slow and easy pitch toward Al. Al, still as a statue, did not move. Like seconds before, the umpire cried, “strike!” This just made the first base man crazy. He could not shout enough short jokes, as he was in the spirit of the game and competition. The first base man, incidentally, was very tall and very slim. In fact, he was nearly a foot taller than Al.

As the pitcher threw the next ball, Al, a right-handed batter, pointed his left foot directly at the first baseman. The pitch was perfect for Al to make a line drive directly at the knees of the first baseman. Al’s current nemesis was in the middle of shouting something about Al being sawed off when the ball soared at him. This caused the first base man to flop around like the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. Al was fast and could have made it a triple. However he trotted slowly to the first base and tagged the bag. He looked up and down that the first baseman, shrugged, smirked, and then led off dangerously toward second.

Al eventually scored from first base. Throughout the rest of the game, the first baseman did not chatter so loudly. And the first base man was eerily silent whenever Al stepped up to the plate. The question is who was a bully? Was it Al or was it the first basement?

In one telling of the story, some participants have screamed out that Al is the bully. Of course, the answer is that both people in the story use force and intimidation in order to try to get their means. Both were bullies. On one instance, I feigned an indignant mood when the participant labeled Al as the counter-antagonist. I pointed out that he was my father. That is true and that's a little gem I share with the audience. Al also played semi-pro ball and never seemed to lose his taste for baseball.

Part three: Bully story from audience

After you finish the story, ask if anyone has another bully story to relate. The only rule is that no real name should be used. This is because the story could be embarrassing and that someone else might know the perpetrator. A non-correction story is requested because otherwise the story may involve someone who knows someone in the classroom. You should be prepared for emotions to shift in a hurry. I usually tell the bully story in the lighthearted, amusing way. But a willing participant may render a heart wrenching story of humiliation and intimidation.

Part four: Finding solutions

Poll the audience on ways to stop bullying. If the audience is shy, you can give one or two of the following to inspire participation. Here's are some ways that corrections professionals can stem the tide of bullying.
  • Zero tolerance backed by administration,
  • Positive peer leadership,
  • Training and awareness,
  • Do not sweep the problem under the rug,
  • Communication,
  • Be aware of staff dynamics,
  • Provide positive examples,
  • Expect accountability for all staff.
When the answers are compiled from the class, you could ask if all of these will work in all situations. Certainly, this is a loaded question. This is a way to remind participants that not all circumstances can be effectively addressed in the same way.

In the end, bullying and harassment is a very serious topic. Effective storytelling is a good way to inspire participation from audience members. Doing this will go a long way in delivering valuable information to corrections professionals.

Joe Bouchard is a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections and a collaborator with The International Association of Correctional Training Personnel (IACTP). He is also the author of “IACTP’s Corrections Icebreakers: The Bouchard 101, 2014”. The installments in this series include his opinions. The agency for which he works is not in any way responsible for the content or accuracy of this material, and the views are those of the contributor and not necessarily those of the agency. While some material is influenced by other works, all of the icebreakers have been developed by Joe Bouchard.

Visit the Joe Bouchard page

Other articles by Bouchard:


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