Bullying in School
Bullying is very often viewed by others as a mean act done to another. There is some truth to this statement. However, for true bullying to occur, the mean acts need to occur more than once, over time, and against a person weaker than the bully. The Olweus Bully Prevention Program supports this definition and is one of the best bully prevention programs that can be implemented in schools.
It’s no surprise that common ‘hot spots’ for bullying occur during times when adult supervision is weak or non-existent. These areas generally include: hallways, playgrounds, cafeterias, locker rooms, and bathrooms. Depending on your school, there may be more or less, but you get the point.
So then, let’s get to the real point!
What can you as a teacher or other school staff do to help decrease bullying in your classroom and better yet, in your entire school?
I’m glad you asked!
1. Adults are not aware of the bulk of bullying incidences. This is because kids are sneaky. Yes, sneaky. No need for technical terms here…sneaky covers it. When is comes to stuff like this, kids know what to say, what to do, and where to do it to keep their butts out of trouble. That said, the best a thing you can do for your students is to make a genuine connection with them. Let them know you care by asking about their interests, attending outside of school activities that they are involved in or eat lunch with them. This will go a long way in your students wanting to please you (interest in following your rules and directions will increase) and it will help to increase their comfort level in coming to you when they need help.
2. Educate students about bullying through classroom lessons and whole school assemblies. This needs to be done on a regular basis and with all students. Teach them respectful behaviors, self-advocacy techniques, coping skills, and when to seek out the help of an adult. In an ideal world, these skills would be taught at home and teachers would be able to focus solely on teaching. You and I both know that this is not the case for more and more students and their families. Schools are becoming not only academic institutions, but they also are charged with Social Emotional Learning (SEL) to help ensure students know right from wrong and to interact socially with one another. The Dignity for All Students Act in New York State is a perfect example of this.
3. Be ready to help! Kids see right through an adult who is not confident in working with them. Seek out the training and support needed to identify, intervene with bullies, victims, and bystanders.
4. Empower your students to be helpful bystanders. Bystanders are those who are witness to acts of bullying. Some bystanders simply watch the hurtful acts happen, some participate, and some do the most helpful thing – which is to intervene or get an adult’s help. Teaching students how to safely intervene in bullying by: standing up to a bully with others by their side, using their words, and removing the victim from the scene are all positive ways that students have power to make bullying stop. Teach and practice these skills regularly to instill the confidence that your student can use to do great things.
5. When addressing a bully about their inappropriate behavior, make it solely about their behavior. Never give a negative consequence out of frustration or dislike for the student as a person. Always make sure that you convey that it is the bullying behavior that is the problem, not the student as a person. The student isn’t bad….it is their choices that are the problem. They have the power to make their own choices. Link consequences to their choices for the greatest impact for change and for the best way to maintain and develop a positive relationship with them.
6. Always maintain consistency in delivering positive and negative consequences based on a student’s behavior. Of the two of these, frequent positive consequences are the most powerful. Gaining praise, rewards, and recognition gives the student attention and drives motivation to continue to make positive choices. Of course kids will be kids, and your students will test the limits. Each time they do, fall back on your classroom expectations and give the appropriate consequences. Doing this creates a feeling of safety in your classroom, trust, security, and models respect and responsibility.
7. Conduct weekly conferences with your entire classroom of students. This is a great time to do fun activities to promote peer relationships, to discuss classroom issues, and to gain their input on how to make things better in school. Implementing their ideas when possible will make your classroom an even more positive and productive environment because the students will feel valued that their ideas are at work.
8. Involve parents and support staff when a bulling situation arises. The parents of the victim and of the bully deserve to receive communication regarding the bullying events. Support staff such as counselors, nurses, principals, and school psychologists can help to support the students along with helping you with future planning. You are not alone in this. For those cases where home support seems very limited, I encourage you to continue your communication even if you feel your aren’t getting anywhere. Parents need to know what is going on regardless of their actions to help. Cover yourself by providing ongoing communication and by documenting each time you do.