Bullying is a topic on everyone’s lips right now and how much of it goes on in schools as well as online (cyber-bullying). If you are a school teacher you may be finding it difficult to control bullying in your classroom.
As a teacher it is your responsibility, first and foremost, to create and foster a safe and healthy classroom environment. Every student should be able to learn in a way that’s protected from physical or emotional harm from other students. You need to be vigilant and identify any possible bullies as well as victims, and monitor their actions. When you are aware of a bullying situation you must, without a doubt, address the bullying immediately and forcefully. Bullies have to find out early on that there are big consequences for their behavior; and victims have to know they’re protected if something happens again.
There are some steps you should be taking so that bullying doesn’t happen in your classroom and all students and parents feel safe with the environment. To do that, you must understand why there are bullies and victims. The issues behind bullies are complex, whether they have been bullied themselves or just have poor self-esteem. You’re not in a position to provide therapy to someone who is a bully; but you can understand what motivates them – power and domination.
Victims, on the other hand, will also struggle with self-esteem although it usually presents itself in an introverted and meek way. As a teacher you cannot teach them to be more assertive or build self-confidence; but you can praise what they do well and take steps to protect them.
You should be aware of and thoroughly understand your school’s anti-bullying policy. Add your own classroom policies and provide them in writing to all parents, students and the school administration. You should also give a verbal explanation of the policies to your students so they can identify bullying when it happens. You should also encourage all students and parents to recognize and report cyber-bullying. People often don’t realize that cyber-bullying has legal implications. There are a lot of good resources out there including bullying reporting apps.
It is easier to take these steps once you build trusting relationships with your students. They need to know that they can trust you and be comfortable around you. They also must feel that they can report bullying to you in confidence and be protected.
You must respond to bullying right away and forcefully. Isolate the bully from the classroom and notify their parents. Even though this may be difficult to do, you must stay calm and present the facts along your actions in response to the bullying. You must also notify the victim’s parents and assure them you’re taking steps to protect their child. Inform the administration and all other teachers who have that bully in their class. (Let the bully know you’ve done this.)
At this point you should get the bully to write an apology and present it orally (in private) to their victim. As your public response, you want to isolate them but you don’t want to humiliate them too much, especially with self-confidence issues. You have to make them feel like it’s possible to come back from this and get redemption if they behave well.
You should review the responses of the whole school and the administration’s position on bullying. Don’t hesitate to speak to them about encouraging more measures, aside from the common response of suspension. In most cases, bullies require more intervention than a suspension will offer. You can set up an after-school class on bullying to achieve these goals. Bullies can be identified by other students, then a trained counselor can intervene to help change their behaviors and attitudes.
Although a lot of therapy is required for sociopathic bullies, the reality is that many students who bully are only doing it to go along with stronger, more dedicated bullies. Those students can change with the right intervention.