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Bullying is never a fun topic to discuss, but it’s become rampant in our schools and must be dealt with appropriately when it occurs. Unfortunately, students face bullying regularly, whether it is directed at them or someone else, and we need to make sure our educators know how they should respond to bullying. Whether bullying happens at the physical school building or outside of school amongst students, it should be talked about both in terms of prevention and discontinuation if it’s already begun. Teachers aren’t likely to see students bully each other, but they often hear about it or see the repercussions of bullying, and as a leader in the schools and in students’ lives, they should take a stand to teach kids about bullying and do their best to get rid of it in their school and classroom. Here are some of our top tips on how to deal with bullying at your school and prevent bullying in your classroom.
Focus on Prevention
Prevention should be the starting point. No matter if your school has had serious bullying issues in the past or none whatsoever, no students are immune to bullying or being bullied, so prevention should be the focus to begin with. Talk to students about bullying, let them express themselves and their experiences with it, and talk about some ways they can prevent bullying in their friend groups and with their classmates. Make sure the staff knows the protocol for how teachers should respond to bullying and how to prevent bullying at school. Make sure the students know the rules about bullying, what is considered bullying, and how instances of bullying will be handled should they arise. Increase adult supervision whenever possible and keep teachers involved in all parts of the students’ days, including in the hallway between classes, in the lunchroom, and during drop off and pick up each day. Not talking about it when it isn’t happening will not prevent it from occurring. In fact, the opposite is true. Even if it’s not occurring now, talking about it will keep bullying at bay and will help your school remain a safe and secure place for all students.
Establish Codes of Conduct and Policies on Bullying
If your school or district doesn’t already have policies and codes of conduct in relation to bullying, consider talking to someone about establishing this. If that’s not possible, create your own code of conduct for your classroom and include bullying in the policies. This way you can prevent bullying in your classroom and hopefully in other classrooms as well. Many schools have students sign these codes of conduct at the start of each year as a confirmation that they’ve heard the rules and they will commit to following them. Make sure your consequences and guidelines are clear so that students know exactly what to expect should they make the choice to bully someone else.
Explore and Evaluate Instances of Bullying
Even if you think your school doesn’t have a bullying problem, there are likely some instances of bullying that take place without teachers’ knowledge. Set up a box for students to put anonymous notes in about their concerns, or do an anonymous school-wide survey asking about bullying. You may want to ask where it takes place most often, what the students have seen occur, what has been done about it, who is involved, and more. Learning where bullying is happening and how can help administrators and teachers prevent bullying at school and can help schools implement a more effective anti-bullying campaign.
If you suspect bullying, the worst thing you can do is ignore it. If you see bullying happen, step in and stop it immediately, and follow your school’s protocol for handling the incident. When bullies think they’re getting away with something, they’re more likely to continue with their unkind actions, but when they’re caught in the act or soon thereafter, they are more likely to reconsider their actions and make better choices moving forward. Additionally, bullying can be incredibly harsh, detrimental, and dangerous at times. Intervening immediately could be key in keeping a student safe and out of harm’s way, and it could keep them from experiencing worsened and more devastating bullying.
Have a Conversation – Or Several
Start with talking to your administrators or principal when you see or suspect bullying. As mentioned above, though, if you see it in progress, stop it first, and then go have a conversation with your boss or supervisor. You may need to call some parents, both of the bully and the victim, and you may need to ask the school counselor to have some conversations with students as well. Depending on the severity of the bullying or how many people were aware of it, you may also need to have a conversation with a large group of students or your entire class. Consider all who may be affected by the incident and have some real conversations with them about it.
Familiarize Yourself with Bullying Indicators
Remember that boys and girls bully differently, and each student who bullies will likely do so differently than others. Some kids will be downright mean and upfront about their meanness, while others will be more sly and crafty in their bullying. There are six main types of bullying that you should be on the lookout for: verbal, physical, relational, sexual, prejudicial, and cyber. Physical and verbal are pretty straightforward, but they may not be as easy to spot as you would think. Relational bullying is sometimes referred to as emotional bullying, and it’s more about ostracizing students, leaving them out of groups intentionally, spreading rumors, and so on. Sexual bullying can be physical or verbal, but it is always sexual or inappropriate in nature. Prejudicial bullying is when students make fun of others based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, and the like. This type of bullying can fall into many of the other categories. Finally, cyber bullying is any type of bullying that occurs via the internet, on smartphones, through text, on social media, and so on. This can be harder to spot since it doesn’t typically occur at school, but cyber bullying may be one of the most common types of bullying for teens and young students today.
Empower Students to Look Out for One Another
This can be hard because peer pressure is a very real thing, and students don’t want to put themselves in a position to become the next bullying victim. The safer and easier you make it for students to report bullying and to prevent bullying at school, the more likely it is that students will, in fact, do so. You want your students to look out for one another, but there is a lot of fear in doing so. Do your best to empower them and encourage them to think about if they were the one being bullied. They would want someone to stand up for them, so they should treat others the way they want to be treated.
Reestablish the Classroom as a Safe Place
Particularly if your classroom has been a place of contention for students, it can be hard to reestablish it as a safe space. However, the safer students feel in your classroom, the less bullying you will likely have to deal with and the more positive environment you will create for your students. Try to have class-wide discussions about incidents that have taken place and open up the discussion for ideas on how to reestablish trust and safety in the classroom. Have students work together to move the classroom around or do a group project about bullying and safety at school.
Teach About Conflict Resolution
Many students who bully often have a deep hurt or insecurity that makes them act the way they do. When they are given safe and appropriate outlets to express themselves, bullying will often dissipate. Teach all of your students about conflict resolution that they can utilize at school, at home, and later in life. Talk to them about using “I” sentences rather than “you” sentences and how to make sure they are correctly understanding what someone else is saying to them during a conflict. Practice conflict resolution strategies in the classroom so they see how they work and can utilize them in real-life situations.