Eliminating bullying is one of the biggest challenges you will face as a teacher. Bullying breaks down the very fiber of the classroom structure. It builds barriers, not only between the children, but between the staff and the children. It can single handedly destroy a child. It can create an environment filled with shame and fear. It can literally make or break a child’s school experience and ultimately their future.
The dynamics behind bullying and why it happens are a constant topic of study and research. New developments make the news all the time. But understanding the full spectrum of the motivations and the results of the cruelty are still a mystery.
Cultural and racial differences can create misunderstandings. Values and opinions can build walls. But some believe the heart of bullying comes from within the life of the bully. They may possibly be bullied themselves, seeking attention, seeking power, or they may actually derive pleasure from the suffering of others. There is a common myth that bullies lack self-esteem, however recent research shows just the opposite. Many are often far more confident than their victims.
Whatever the motivations, it is clear that bullying is prevalent in the lives of kids. Anything you can do to alleviate it in your classroom is a step in the right direction.
Here are some tips to help you put the kibosh on bullying at school:
- Build relationships among students by connecting them through their similarities. Kids are often surprised that that shy kid in the third row loves baseball too, or that awkward little girl at lunch shares a love of horses.
- Teach children to respect differences. Activities that build on appreciating diversity are always helpful. Pair kids up and have them do a report or tell the class all the neat qualities of their partner.
- Talk with your kids about bullying. Surprisingly, kids are not always aware that what they are doing, or what they are experiencing is actually bullying. Help kids be aware of the many forms of bullying such as cyber-bullying, physical abuse, social alienation, mocking, and verbal abuse of any kind. Encourage them to speak up when they see it happening.
- Hold a class meeting to discuss rules and consequences. Let the children help make the rules and decide on the results of disobeying them. Keep the list simple – no more than 4 or 5 rules, and word them in positive terms (what children should do, as opposed to what they should not do).
- Quiz your kids with this Bullying; True or False quiz. They might be surprised by the answers! Bullying True or False Quiz.
- Teach kids about conflict resolution. This is another area that classroom discussion would be helpful. Come up with some simple steps to follow in the event that they are bullied.
- Provide appropriate and consistent consequences for bullying. This will send a strong message to the bully.
One of the keys to facilitating a bully-free classroom is to create an environment that respects the differences of others, while celebrating the similarities. Helping children see each other as human beings, with similar interests and ideas can help break down some of the building blocks to bullying.
Please tell us how you combat bullying in your school.