Bullying is a problem that leaves kids feeling desperate and alone. But as problems go, it’s far from insoluble, and that spells hope for legions of students who have been victimized. It’s an entirely preventable phenomenon, and teachers should take an active role in stopping it. Educators should familiarize themselves with five basic bullying prevention techniques both to stop and prevent bullying.
Teachers must mentally identify likely bullying targets, such as LGBTQ kids or students with disabilities. They should closely monitor places and times where bullying might occur. Buses, recesses, and free periods are obvious havens for bullies, but there are other places where bullies can gain momentum. Any place that’s loud and hectic—like a school lunchroom—could be a bully-rich environment. Conversely, bullies can also take advantage of quieter, more secluded spots, like restrooms. Cyberbullying, of course, can occur anywhere students have access to a cellular signal or the Internet. Educators must practice the fine art of observation and vigilance to make sure bullies don’t have free rein to terrorize their peers.
Teachers are leaders, both in their classrooms and in the larger school community. But any adult who has a role to play in a student’s life should be involved in bullying prevention. Teachers should work with school administrators to ensure that librarians, custodians, cafeteria personnel, security officers, paraprofessionals, coaches, bus drivers, and anyone else who comes into contact with students receives adequate training in bullying prevention techniques.
Students should also be involved in the effort to prevent bullying. Educators can transform them from “bystanders” to “upstanders,” and teach them safe and appropriate techniques to intervene in bullying situations. Anti-bullying campaigns and events, like National Bullying Prevention Month, can be deployed for a school-wide effect.
The Internet is rich with bullying prevention toolkits, lesson plans, worksheets and classroom resources. Educators should use them to help bullies feel empathy, empower victims to develop resilience, and teach other students to keep classrooms and shared spaces safe for everyone, regardless of differences. The National Education Association, for instance, has an extensive collection of lesson plans, activities, games, quizzes, and background resources, all free of charge.
Teachers can’t be everywhere at once. But they can foster a pervasive atmosphere of inclusiveness, tolerance, and compassion in the areas within their control. They should demand that their classrooms be safe spaces where students address each other respectfully and recognize each others humanity—or face real disciplinary consequences. They can also work hand-in-hand with school administrators to develop policies and rules, like codes of conduct and bullying reporting systems, aimed at wiping out bullying. Finally, they can leverage ordinary things in extraordinary ways by using family newsletters, school websites, and student assemblies to promote a bullying prevention philosophy.
If bullies resist all efforts at prevention and a bullying situation develops, savvy educators will learn to intervene in constructive ways. One or more adults should separate all the involved students and “debrief” them about what happened. Victims should be supported emotionally, and perpetrators should be listened to and should then face consistent disciplinary measures, which should always include some form of conflict resolution.