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In schools across the nation, bullying has become a serious issue for many teachers, parents and students. It’s all over the media, as well: there has been a concerning rise in bullying incidents, as well as a rise in the intensity and severity of bullying. As teachers, we must work hard to create classrooms that reduce and eliminate bullying behaviors. Here are a few tips to make your classroom and school a peaceful place.
1. Teach your students about bullying.
This idea sounds simple and obvious. But, as teachers, sometimes we get caught up in the academic curriculum and neglect social curriculum. It’s important for children to be able to identify bullies and bullying behaviors. For younger grades, you can help them do this by reading pictures books such as The Berenstain Bears and the Bully by Stan and Jan Berenstain and then having discussions with your students about what bullies do, who victims can be, and how bullying makes others feel.
Older grades especially benefit from such pointed conversations: honest discussions provide a safe forum for conversations and accountability. This will give your students an idea about how to identify bullies, and it may even let some students know that they are being bullies.
Many students tend to bully because they are negatively affected by something else in their lives. For example, it has been shown that students sometimes feel overwhelmed and pressured by constant testing and examinations; when students subconsciously feel like failures, they can lash out at others.
As teachers, we can reduce these feelings by lessening the stress of testing. Implement creative ways to assess in your classroom like individual creative projects, observation assessments and personal goals. When students feel ownership over their learning, they are more likely to enjoy it and retain information learned…and less likely to exhibit hostility.
3. Give students tools and information on how to deal with bullying.
One of the main problems with bullying is that students don’t know what to do when they are the victim. They are scared to speak out against the bully because they don’t know what will happen next. We can give our students ideas about the safe and smartest options, such as letting an adult know about the problem and protecting yourself from situations involving the bully. Here are a few concrete ideas:
- Play a “role playing” game like Bullies, Victims & Bystanders (available at The School Box). This game presents bullying in a concrete way for students, raising their awareness of bullying and its seriousness.
- Read Stop Picking On Me (A First Look At Series), which helps students discuss how they feel when they are bullied and what they can do about it.
- Invite your school counselor into your classroom to host a discussion.
- For more activities and ideas for younger students, check out The Anti Bullying and Teasing Book (also at The School Box).
Overall, it’s important to remember that both bullies and victims need support. For more information, talk to your school’s counselor about programs and age-appropriate books you can use in your classroom. Let’s work together to help protect our students and create peaceful atmospheres!
Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at The University of Georgia and a regular contributor to A Learning Experience.