Bullying is, unfortunately, a common occurrence in schools. As teachers, we often have to deal with bullying throughout our careers.
But what is it?
Generally, bullying can be described as repeated aggressive behaviour characterized by a power imbalance and the intent to cause harm. Students who are bullied often feel threatened and powerless.
Why does it happen?
Reasons for bullying can be absolutely different, like jealousy, religion, the envy of one’s talents, abilities and even of property. And in any case, bullying must be stopped.
What are the consequences of bullying?
Researchers suppose that children and teenagers who have been bullied can experience negative psychological, physical, and academic effects. Bullying may lead to depression, low self-esteem, aggression and tendency to violence. Besides, victims of bullying may be physically injured, experience great stress and have various side effects like insomnia, headaches, dizziness. All the mentioned above consequences have a negative impact on marks and grades, willingness to study and general academic successes.
What can teachers do?
When dealing with such a complicated phenomenon as bullying, you can use the following tips:
— Stop the bullying immediately
Normally teenagers bully each other when the teacher cannot see them. So you have to be really attentive to frustrated or depressed pupils. If you see that in a certain case bullying is obvious, stop it right away. Separate the participants of bullying if they are close to each other, take them under control. Let them realize that such behaviour is unacceptable for you and you are going to take care of it.
— Support the bullied teen
You should do it in a safe and benevolent atmosphere. Hold the conversation carefully, don`t touch a nerve, retain the teen`s dignity. If it`s essential, appoint a private meeting. Increase supervision to assure bullying will not be repeated.
— Hold a conversation with bullies
Organize a face-to-face meeting and clarify the consequences which should be logical and related to the offence. As an option, you can take away particular privileges like long recess, participation in clubs or you may impose a punishment like detention or various extra chores around the classroom.
— Notify victim`s and bully`s parents
Let the bully know that he is being watched. Talking with the bully`s parents, be fair and respectful. Don`t show negative emotions just give facts, explain that bullying is unacceptable and emphasize that you are doing everything to tackle the problem.
Talking with the victim`s parents inform them what exactly happened and what are you doing to handle it. Assure them that you have enough power to prevent the problem in the future and it`s your first priority.
What to do to prevent bullying?
— Build rapport
The key to a successful relationship with your class is to establish a safe atmosphere in your class. When your students feel secure and respected, they respect and appreciate your rules, they are less likely to take part in any kinds of bullying behaviour. So you need to talk to them, take care of their problems, be sincere in your willingness to help.
— Help students to know each other
Give them an opportunity to spend time together apart from lessons. Organize events involving all students. If you are not a form teacher, you can simply create group activities during the lessons like project works, challenges, discussions, and surveys.
— Establish your own bullying policy
Make a list of rules against bullying or steps pupils can do when bullying occurs. These rules should be visible, remarkable and clear for everyone. You can discuss them with your students and get their opinion of why these rules are important.
— Make classroom remarkable
Organize creative, comfortable and bright environment. Create visual boards with student`s achievements, dreams, interests. Praise common celebrations like birthdays or public holidays. Let students personalize the classroom: they may have their own photos there, bring plants or toys to decorate it or keep their cups to have lunch in a convenient way.
What to do if it happens again?
If bullying behaviour occurs again, behave strictly. Inform parents and authorities immediately. Place the bully in a time-out for an uncertain period of time without social privileges, and if it`s essential even with punishment. Persuade other students that they will not be hurt anymore.
When all students are considered as valuable members of the class and they are motivated, engaged in the activities and learning, when they know they are appreciated, thoughts about bullying will not even cross their minds.