Bully-Proof Your Classroom
Say No to Bullying from Day One
More than ever, teachers and administrators must be proactive in providing a physically and emotionally safe environment for learners. As the world watches the tragedy of school violence, bullying and teasing are important issues to tackle head-on.
Many schools have adopted formal plans to resist bullying. By having a blueprint for how to handle these situations, many teachers have found that adversarial relations are greatly reduced.
Start by making sure your expectations are clear. Have students model these expected behaviors in a controlled setting. Devise rewards and consequences for desired behaviors, and be consistent in applying them.
Getting to Know You
When children feel empathy, it's difficult for them to objectify one another. Early in the school year, play games that give students the chance to team-build. Use Getting to Know You Activities to promote understanding and bonding.
Empower Students to Help ThemselvesStudents need to know how to handle minor acts of teasing on their own. This ability improves student self-esteem, and allows the educator to monitor more serious infractions.
Implement a campus-wide program of peer assistance:
- Train selected students to assist with minor playground altercations.
- Teach all students how to use the peer assistants.
- Implement a campus-wide method of dealing with behavior violations. Lunchtime detention has worked extremely well at my site. It has not only reduced bullying and teasing, but has also improved general behavior over the last seven years.
Open the Lines of Communication and Keep Them Open
Make it safe for students in a group setting to report problems. Using "Class Meetings" as a way for students to safely express acts of bullying or teasing has been effective for many teachers. The existence of these meetings is often a deterrent for occasional bullies. In my class, we do the following:
- Students establish the agenda by adding items throughout the week as problems or issues arise.
- Once a week, twice a month, or once a month, we hold a class meeting where these issues are dealt with and resolved in an established, organized way.
- Also, provide a safe way for students to privately report to you. Methods: Set aside time each day for private conversations. Create a secure place for students to leave you notes.
Zero Tolerance, Instant Response
Students need to know that you have no tolerance for hurtful behavior. The bully or tease needs to have the behavior modified, and the victim needs to see that school is a safe environment.
Here are common steps that many teachers have successfully followed:
- Listen attentively to the one being teased or bullied.
- Speak privately to the bully (clearly explain the report or observation, and try to determine the motivation behind the act).
- Speak to both parties and come to an agreement about future interactions.
- Involve the principal and parents, as appropriate.
- Suggest further means of modification, if necessary. Possibilities include counseling, contracts, and Student Study Team meetings.
A class that feels united is likely to have fewer problems. If students know each other well and feel close to each other, they are less likely to participate in teasing and bullying. In fact, they are likely to become protective and supportive of each other.