Bullying is a major issue in today’s schools and it can have dire consequences. For instance, it’s estimated that nearly one-third of all students ages 12 to 18 years old have reported being bullied in some way at school. Students who have been bullied are more likely to have low self-esteem, difficulty trusting others, feelings of isolation, anger and in the direst cases — suicidal thoughts.
Ways to address bullying
Yes, bullying is serious, which is why more school districts are taking active measures to address the issue. A lot of this can start in the classroom with the teacher. Teachers can make a difference in terms of student behavior when it comes to bullying. Here’s a look at 10 different ways you can address bullying and help promote a safe, nurturing school environment:
Make a list
As a teacher, it’s your job to create a safe, nurturing, learning environment for your students. So at the start of each school year, make a list of what type of behavior (verbal, physical, etc.) is appropriate and not appropriate in your classroom. Make sure each student understands your list. This can stop problems before they even begin.
You can’t do anything to address bullying if you’re unaware that bullying is occurring. After you inform your students about what type of behavior isn’t appropriate, encourage your students to come to you with issues that you may not be privy to seeing. Remember, one type of bullying is cyberbullying and that doesn’t always occur in the classroom.
Tell your students’ parents at Open Houses that bullying won’t be tolerated. If your students are reported to have been engaging in inappropriate behavior, contact the parents and inform them. It’s good to have parents as allies in terms of combating bullying in your classroom.
The classroom is one thing — but the hallways are a whole different place that is often unsupervised. Between class periods, roam the halls and watch out for inappropriate behavior. Encourage other teachers to do the same thing. Perhaps you can even create zones that each teacher is responsible for watching.
Take the time to show your class appropriate films that demonstrate the dire effects that bullying can have on students. Sometimes such films can serve as a wake-up call to how detrimental bullying can be. Popular films like “Mean Girls” brings up a variety of discussion topics related to bullying and peer pressure. “Wonder” promotes meaningful conversations around bullying, perseverance, and empathy.
Be firm and consistent
Be sure that you stay firm and consistent on your anti-bullying stance in your classroom. Drifting from your original stance can show students that you may not have been serious about your stance on bullying, which can encourage inappropriate behavior. Make sure that you, your colleagues, and your administrators are all aligned on this very important issue so that there’s consistency across the board.
Stop bullying when you see it
If you see an incident of bullying occurring, don’t just stand there and watch it unfold — stop it from happening immediately. Gather the evidence associated with the particular incident and then address the issue with those involved to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. Encourage your school to install disciplinary measures and restorative justice methods to ensure that change occurs.
Educating your class on the detrimental effects of bullying is one thing, but holding an assembly to discuss such effects can be enlightening for the entire school. Consider hosting a special guest speaker to help get the point across. If your school has a theater department, consider asking them to write and act out a play that involves bullying and the consequences associated with it.
Don’t turn your back on students who have been victims of bullying. And, at the same time, don’t ignore the students who have bullied others. Bullying can impact a variety of people involved and many times it’s the bullies themselves. Offering support can help get to the root of the problem. Many bullies have often experienced some form of violence or trauma and while that does not excuse their behavior in any way, it can help shed light on additional issues that need to be addressed.
Don’t ignore it
Don’t pretend like bullying doesn’t occur and take a “what I don’t know won’t hurt me” approach. Bullying is a real and serious issue and not addressing it at all isn’t a healthy way to deal with it. Instead, make an effort to focus on it and be proactive.