*As featured in a past edition of one of our magazines*
Eleven Ways to Bullyproof Your Classroom
No More Sticks and Stones
As long as there have been schools, there have probably been bullies in those schools—tormenting, threatening, and humiliating other children. Most often, we think of bullying as physical aggressiveness and blatant verbal assaults. But the equally harmful practices of gossiping and teasing can qualify as bullying too. Research has shown that girls are especially likely to take these approaches.
No matter where or how it happens, bullying is an act of aggression that you can't ignore. Here are Eleven of the most effective strategies that you can use to put an end to bullying at your school.
For Your Students
- Teach kids what to do if they are confronted by a bully. Suggest the following, depending on the situation:
- Ignore the bully and continue with your activity.
- Ask the bully in a friendly way to stop—for example, "Hey, cut it out, would you?" or "Cool it, okay?"
- Make eye contact with the bully and firmly tell him or her to stop—for example, "Knock it off right now."
- Walk away from the bully.
- Ask an adult for help.
- Explain to students that fighting back usually isn't the answer. Bullies tend to misread incidental behavior as deliberately threatening or hostile to them. As a result, they feel justified in acting aggressively. That means that if Jeremy bumps into James, the class bully, James may feel that Jeremy "deserves" to be pushed around on the playground. Because James feels justified in what he is doing, fighting back will simply escalate the situation. Similarly, trying to reason with a bully doesn't usually work either, since the bully feels that the victim deserves what is happening.
- Help students see one another as people. Pairing a class bully to work on a project with a different child each day helps the bully see other children as real people—not just potential objects of abuse.
- Know what to say. When talking with a child who's being bullied, some of the common sense suggestions that you might give the child actually aren't very effective. According to Dorothea M. Ross, Ph. D., author of Childhood Bullying and Teasing: What School Personnel, Other Professionals, and Parents Can Do, here's what not to do:
- Don't minimize the problem. Making a joke, downplaying the problem, or minimizing the taunts is demoralizing to the child and won't lessen the hurt.
- Don't suggest that the victim's parents call the bully's parents. The victim is likely to be labeled as a tattletale.
- Don't tell the child that the incident will "build character." The child will feel bad that he or she isn't tough enough to take the teasing.
- Be cautious about role models. Whether during a literature discussion or a chat about a movie you saw, be careful not to suggest that tough guys and girls are heroes and heroines or that their victims are wimps.
- Watch for aggressive behavior in its many forms. Television, computer games, and sports can glorify aggressive or violent behavior, and students who are involved in these things should be closely monitored. Never condone aggressive behavior of any type, even if it's not real.
- Make sure that, even when you're angry, your words and actions convey that violence, aggression, and abuse are unacceptable. You can convey this through the way you address disputes in the classroom and the way you choose to punish students.
- Know when to get involved. Students can usually work out minor differences among themselves. But it's time for you to intervene if children are so intimidated that they won't stand up for themselves or so fearful of retribution that they won't tell anyone about the dispute.
- Help students become self-confident. Students who lack confidence are more likely to become victims.
For Parents and Colleagues
- Alert the bully's family to the problem. Arrange a conference for you; the student's parents; and the school counselor, psychologist, or administrator. The purpose should be to inform the parents about their child's behavior and to get everyone in attendance working to help the child improve his or her behavior. Set short-term goals, establish a system for giving one another feedback on the child's progress, and schedule a follow-up meeting.
- Raise your colleagues' awareness of the dangers of bullying. Invite a special guest to make a presentation about bullying at a faculty meeting or parents' group meeting. Also, share articles about bullying with your colleagues and brainstorm interventions and solutions.
Straight Talk About Bullies
How serious is the problem of bullying? Here's what the research says:
- The National Association of School Psychologists estimates that one in seven students is either a bully or the victim of a bully. NASP also estimates that 160,000 American children miss school each day for fear of being bullied.
- Bullying isn't necessarily more prevalent in bigger schools or bigger classes, according to a study by Dan Olweus.
- According to a study, 60 percent of boys identified as bullies in middle school had at least one criminal conviction by age 24. Forty percent of these same boys grew up to have three of more criminal convictions.
- Contrary to popular belief, children who become bullies don't seem to have low self-esteem. In fact, research show that they tend to think rather highly of themselves and that they don't empathize with others.