As an educator, how do you handle cases of bullying in school?
Bullying is aggressive behavior that is intentional and involves a display of power or strength. It has been part of our school system for years and has even expanded to the online space – Cyberbullying. Targeted children often suffer from poor performance in school, insomnia, anxiety, and depression. And even the students doing the bullying are at a much higher risk, as this behavior could extend into adulthood, leading to violent behavior and substance abuse.
Besides inculcating knowledge, one of the perks of being a teacher is creating a safe environment where students can thrive socially and academically. And such an environment must be void of bullying and its kind. Preventing or handling bullying involves a committed approach. Whether you want to tackle a case of bullying in school or you simply want to prevent such occurrences, the tips below will help you create a conducive environment for students.
Some ways to Prevent Bullying Behavior
- Be observant
- Teach empathy and kindness
- Use arts to explain the concept
- Do not transfer aggression
- Involve parents and school administrators when necessary
- Set standards for students
Bullying in school mostly happens in secluded places or areas without much supervision—such as the bathroom, crowded hallways, playground, school buses, etc. As an educator, you must be observant to know when a child’s disposition or countenance changes. Carefully examine any student when he/she gets back from the toilet or playground. There are chances that you could know what transpired in your absence by observing their countenance.
Besides observing their disposition, you should also look out for subtle behaviors that signal to bully. These behaviors are common in the classroom amongst students, especially during lessons. Although they can be difficult to detect, if recognized early can prevent bullying. Some of these behaviors include:
- Prolonged staring
- Constant back turning
- Eye rolling
- Laughing cruelly or encouraging others to laugh scornfully.
While these behaviors may not be outrightly classified as bullying, identifying them and intervening early could mitigate the likelihood of growing into a problem.
Teach empathy and togetherness
When students are taught about the importance and benefits of kindness, they are less likely to bully others. Encourage students to participate in activities that boost social-emotional learning. Teach students to understand their worth and that of others. You could gather them together and allow them to interact – talk about their differences, work through problems and build understanding amongst themselves.
This interaction can help students connect to peers and enable them to speak up and take a stand against bullying behavior. You can also encourage them to participate in after-school activities that align with their hobbies and interests.
Use arts to explain the context
Arts can be a powerful tool for helping young children see things from different perspectives. You can use drama, literature, and visual arts to communicate the negative impact of bullying. You could also share short fiction for better understanding. But in a case where you have to tell a real-life story portraying the danger of bullying, do well to protect the characters’ image.
Do not transfer aggression
Educators can be bullies when they do not manage their emotions properly. Bullying occurs amongst teachers. And when they feel bullied by colleagues, their students can become negatively affected. To stop the spread of bullying from the leadership level down to students, try to manage your emotions and not transfer aggression. Even after a bad experience with a colleague, try to maintain positive energy while in class. This is why we have encouraged teachers to prioritize self-care and develop emotional intelligence and competence.
Creating a positive environment for students requires utmost positivity from your end. So focus on building a positive learning environment. You can talk to your school counselor or HR professional about the issues in your school’s administration, especially the ones that affect your productivity.
Involve parents and school administrators when necessary
Parents need to be part of the campaign against bullying. During parents-teachers meetings, it is necessary to educate parents on bullying, how to identify a bully and someone who is being bullied because bullying also occurs at home.
If you observe bullying in a classroom, do well to inform appropriate school administrators, and parents of both the bully and the bullied so that proper investigation will be carried out. However, it is not advisable to have a joint meeting with the bullied student and the bully. It can be embarrassing and intimidating for the bullied. You can involve a school counselor or psychologist for students as often as possible to help identify negative behaviors in school.
Set standards for students
Another way to prevent bullying in school is to explicitly make its prohibition known to students upon registration and reveal potential punishments if found guilty of bullying. Creating an anti-bullying document and having both students and parents/guardians sign also helps students understand the severity of bullying.
HELPING THE BULLY
It is important to note that even bullies need help. A child’s aggressive behavior should not be regarded as childish exuberance. And if not addressed early, it can become a lifestyle, endangering others. As you create strategies to help the bullied, make out time to interact with bullies too. When you notice an aggressive child, talk with the child openly and try to find out the reasons behind the aggression. Sometimes, when children suffer abuse from their parents or older siblings, they tend to direct their anger and hurt other children.
Sometimes, you should channel your efforts towards looking for solutions rather than punishments. Show the bully that you accept him/her, but not their aggressive behavior. In most cases, these bullies do not understand the consequences of their actions on their victims. Here are few tips on how to help a bully:
- Explain their behavior to them calmly and clearly. Make them understand the effect of such behavior on the child at the receiving end.
- Get them to explain the reason behind their aggression.
- Remind them that such behavior is unacceptable.
- Make them take responsibility for their actions if severe, but parents must be informed.
- Encourage them to speak up when wronged by a fellow student.
- And in extreme cases, refer the child to a psychologist or counselor for further help.