How to Address Bullying as a Teacher
Whether you see it or not, bullying occurs. It is the responsible of every teacher, staff member, and student to stand up to put an end to this harmful practice.
Teachers face many challenges in the classroom. Apart from looking after energetic youth while trying to teach foundational and new concepts, one of the many challenges teachers face is bullying. Students spend a significant amount of time in the classroom and interacting with their peers each week. It is therefore important for teachers to make the classroom environment as safe as possible. Studies show that bullying can negatively impact how a student performs academically and interacts with others. Teachers then have a responsibility to make the classroom environment as nurturing and supporting as possible so that all students can grow, excel, and reach their full potential. Below are a few guidelines on how teachers can and should appropriately address bullying.
One of the most important things teachers can and should do to appropriately address bullying is to educate and frequently discuss bullying with students throughout the school year. At the beginning of the year, teachers share with students what verbal and non-verbal behavior is unacceptable within the classroom. It is important that as a teacher you remain consistent in upholding the behavior that is acceptable throughout the school year, failure to do so can pave the way for inappropriate behavior in the future. When educating students about bullying, consider showing films in addition to discussing the issue orally to deepen the impression of what is being said. Showing films like “Mean Girls” and “Wonder” demonstrate how bullying can negatively impact the lives of others and awaken empathy in students so that future bullying does not occur. Educating students about bullying does not have to take place only in the classroom. Assembles can be held with students from all grade levels to discuss the issue of bullying on a larger scale outside the classroom. When students see all teachers, staff, and administrators in agreement that bullying is not acceptable, nor tolerated, it reinforces and deepens the impression that bullying is taken seriously. Implementation of such practices can serve as a great preventative measure to stop many acts of bullying from occurring.
Another significant component of addressing bullying within the classroom is taking immediate action when bullying is observed. Taking immediate action when bullying is observed is a great way to discourage bullying as it sends a message to students that bullying is not accepted, nor tolerated within the classroom. When taking immediate action, it is important to impose consequences pertaining to such bullying as soon as possible. By imposing immediate consequences to bullying, students can make a real world connection with bullying and the outcome of such actions. Part of taking immediate action is also informing parents of the bullied student and the bully when an incident occurs. In doing so, the bullied student knows that he or she will have the support of their parents and are not alone. For the student bully, this means that he or she will not only have to deal with disciplinary actions at school, but also potentially at home, further discouraging any future bullying.
Lastly, when addressing bullying, teachers should seek to provide support to all parties involved. For the student who is bullied, such experiences can negatively impact their emotional and social well-being. For this reason, it is important to check in on such students and see how they are doing on a weekly basis for a month after a bullying incident has occurred. Ask students who are victims of bullying if they are ok and assure them that if they ever need someone available you are there for them and willing to provide a listening ear. Such support can restore the feeling of being in a safe and nurturing environment which paves the way for students to continue to grow and flourish. Teachers may also want to refer students to the school social worker so that they can have another outlet to express their concerns, receive further support and counseling from a professional. It is important to note that bullying can often be a sign of issues occurring within the home. Some students bully others due to an unstable home, neglect, low-self esteem, and even verbal and physical abuse. Knowing this, it is important for teachers to provide support to students who have bullied others as well as their bullying may be the result of a deeper underlying issue. Letting the student who has bullied others know that you are available if he or she ever needs someone to talk to paves the way for them to be open and share what they are going through as well. Referring bullied students to school social workers further paves the way for students to be open about the issues that they are facing at home, allowing them to receive the support they need to improve their social and emotional well being.