We all want our students to feel safe at school. One way to ensure they feel a sense of security is to prevent bullying. When we recognize, stop, and prevent bullying we know that we are one step closer to providing our students with the best learning environment possible.
Harness The Power of Observation
The first step in preventing bullying is recognizing it. Observe, observe, observe! Be vigilant. Watch your students -- be present in hallways, and “pop-in" to restrooms and stairwells during class changes in order to detect any signs of inappropriate behavior. Children who are being bullied might be too scared to tell an adult, so many times it is up to you to spot it. Follow this teacher's guide to indentifying a bully for more information.
Teach Students Respect
Teach students to respect and look out for one another. Unfortunately, respect for others is not always taught in the home, so it is up to the schools to educate children in this regard. Children that are taught to respect themselves and each other from a very early age are less likely to become bullies. Incorporate these excellent tips from Michelle McFarland-McDaniels on creating an inclusive classroom environment, and help each student in your classroom feel respected, supported, valued and appreciated.
Listen to Your Students
Learning will not take place if a child feels threatened. Teach students the signs of bullying and make sure that if they report bullying, their information will be held in the strictest confidence and no one will know who reported it. If your school does not already have a procedure for anonomously reporting signs of bullying they have observed, lead the charge with your school administrators and get one started!
All school staff should be trained on bullying prevention. Students who have seen victimization first-hand or have been victims themselves often need a trusted adult to confide in. Make sure there are no barriers in your classroom, or in your school, that prevent this from happening.
Build Student Confidence
Many times bullies choose victims they perceive to be weaker than others. Learn how to identify kids who are bullied. Teach your students, especially those that you suspect may be victims, the importance of good posture and eye contact. If a student presents themselves as strong on the outside, even if they do not necessrily feel confident on the inside, they may be less attractive targets for bullies. Teach students to avoid isolated places at school. Let students know that is okay to leave a situation where they feel threatened.
It's important to take bullying seriously. Teachers are busy, and our classrooms are getting busier everyday. However, there is absolutely nothing in a teacher’s job that is more important than making sure students have an environment in which they feel safe.
Follow these tips, incorporate respect in to your classroom, be vigilant in your observation of student behavior and always take the time to listen to a student's fears when they voice them. Always act on what you observe or learn. Sometimes it may turn out to be nothing, but many times, you will save a child from days of fear, humiliation, and even physical harm.