Seven Steps to a Bullying-Free Classroom
EducationWorld is pleased to present this article contributed by Aimee Hosler, a mother of two who is passionate about education and contributes to several Web sites, including TeacherPortal.com. She holds a B.S. in journalism from California Polytechnic State University.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month, yet bullying prevention should be a year-round affair. By establishing a safe classroom climate, educators can minimize bullying right from the start.
A positive learning environment doesn’t just happen on its own, however. It takes intentional and consistent effort. With that in mind, here are seven strategies teachers can use to foster students’ emotional health every single day.
Be a role model. If you want students to meet your expectations in terms of how they treat their peers (and you), don’t just tell them—show them. Strive to always greet your students by name. Make eye contact and smile often. Always remain respectful not just with your words, but also your tone of voice. Model positive problem-solving and peaceful conflict resolution as often as possible.
Catch them being good. Notice and reinforce positive interactions within your class whenever and wherever you can. By pointing out kindness and respect when you see it, your students will not only become more aware of their behavior, but also of the fact that you really care about nurturing positive peer relationships among students.
Set your expectations early. All children benefit from the establishment of clear, consistent rules. Most teachers review them at the beginning of the year and keep them posted in the classroom, but it helps to review them often—especially when working with younger children.
Use the power of play. Play is one of the most powerful ways to reach children and encourage positive behavior. Consider using puppets to role-play difficult situations (illustrating both helpful and unhelpful responses to conflict). You can also integrate team-building games that require students to solve problems together, reinforcing positive relationships and behaviors. If nothing else, take time now and again to just have fun with your students. This can help win their trust.
Establish an open-door policy. Make it clear early on that you care about your students and are willing to listen to them and advise them (as appropriate). Consider setting up a lock box that students can use to send you private notes, or establishing a set time when you are available for one-on-one meetings. If one of your students is a target of bullying, he or she will be more likely to come to you if it can be done discreetly.
Embrace and accommodate differences. According to the University of Delaware’s Center for Teaching and the Assessment of Learning, teachers striving to establish a positive classroom environment must make a point to acknowledge and accommodate students’ individual differences. Understand that not all students learn things the same way, or at the same pace. By noting and catering to students’ individual needs and learning styles, you not only help them succeed, but also show them that they are important to you.
Demonstrate appropriate use of technology. Bullying is no longer confined to the school building. In a 2013 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in six students reported being a target of cyberbullying. Often these acts are carried out from home, beyond educators’ jurisdiction. (Your state law may, however, support educators’ efforts to intervene in off-campus cyberbullying that interferes with on-campus learning.) Take the time to discuss the appropriate use of technology, perhaps even integrating social media in a positive way.
When you decided to become a teacher, you probably considered how you would handle bullying or similarly sticky situations. Faced with actual incidents, however, it is not uncommon to find that your go-to method simply won’t cut it—at least not for every student. Know your state’s anti-bullying law, tap into your network of teachers and administrators for support and ideas, and remember to escalate issues that feel too big or too dangerous to tackle on your own.
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