Every parent, teacher, and student knows the word “bullying.” However, its meaning is often misunderstood. Today, the term bullying is often overused, and because of this, the extent and impact of true bullying may be masked. It is critical that we accurately teach what true bullying looks like and what to do about it.
Students need to know that you are consistent with having zero tolerance for bullying in your classroom and in your school. At meetings with other teachers, administrators, or intervention teams, be sure to discuss students who are showing signs of bullying or being bullied. There should be a team plan on how to support these students and how to stop the bullying. Parents should also be informed when their children are showing signs of being bullied.
It is important to help students think about the various reasons why people bully others and the potential ramifications of their actions. You want to come up with prompts that encourage students to reflect on their own involvement (passive or active) in bullying situations and build empathy by asking them to consider what it feels like to be bullied. Here are some examples:
- Do you know anyone who is being bullied in school? What are some of the things you could do to help this student?
- What are some things you are willing to try to prevent bullying from happening?
- Why do you think some people bully others?
- How do you feel when you see someone else being teased?
- Where do you think bullying culture is most prevalent: online, in our classroom, during passing periods, or during extra curricular activities?
- What are the consequences for standing up for someone who is being bullied?
- In the past month, have you been bullied by someone? How did it make you feel?
- In the past month, have you bullied another person? Walk me through the way you felt before, during, and after the situation.
- Are you afraid of being laughed at in school? How do you feel when people are laughing at you?
- If a student is bullied in school, how difficult is it for him or her to get help from an adult?
Do a quick “five-finger” check-in with students. Have students raise their hands showing up to the number five how they are feeling at school this week (5 = great to 1 = they need support). You could have students put their heads down when they do this to make sure they feel comfortable showing their number. Check-in privately with any student who shows less than a 3.
Be intentional about checking in on students who show indicators of bullying. Find out how they are feeling each day. Personally introduce them to the school counselor and/or another school adult who might be able to provide support.
Create regular classroom meeting times to give students a safe place to talk about issues and to discuss the climate in the classroom(s) and school. Focus on specific topics such as bullying. Help students be solution-focused regarding issues facing them in school. There are many templates online on how to conduct a classroom meeting. A few important tips about how to lead successful meetings are:
- Always circle-up (it will set the tone).
- Start with compliments and gratitude.
- Follow-up with anything from previous meetings.
- Have an agenda that includes specific issues that students have proposed.
- Use a talking stick or object. Allow all students the opportunity to have the talking stick or object.
- Wrap-up with future plans.
Find time to teach about the differences between rude, mean, and bullying behavior and what to do in, and how to get help for, each scenario. Role-play different scenarios and ask students to identify which scenario is being played out. Revisit these lessons throughout the year.
- Rude – usually unintentionally hurtful comment or behavior. Empower students to use their voice to tell the person to stop the hurtful behavior that he or she is doing.
- Mean – usually intentionally hurtful comment or behavior done once or twice. Empower students to make eye-contact, use the person’s name, and tell the person to stop the hurtful behavior. Restorative practices can be helpful if the student needs help.
- Bullying -Intentionally mean and aggressive behavior, done repeatedly over time, and that involves an imbalance of power. Teach kids how to report a bully. An adult needs to intervene immediately in this situation.
Classroom Set Up
With the help of students, create posters that emphasize the positive behaviors and support you want to see in the classroom. Have all students participate in creating the posters. On the posters, have students sign that they will contribute to the positive classroom environment.