By Teachers, For Teachers
October is Bullying Prevention Month, and throughout the course of the next couple weeks we’ll be spotlighting ways educators can combat this continuing problem.
“Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.”
While this popular saying means well, it doesn’t account for the fact that bullying still happens, and it’s an act that can’t be ignored.
More often than not, bullying is an aggressive act that can ruin a child’s life and leave a devastating mark on his future. Severity considered, it’s a problem that schools have been trying to address, especially in the wake of numerous school shootings and teenage suicides.
Here are 10 anti-bullying tactics for your classroom to prevent it from ever happening—or at the very least minimize it as much as possible.
Let it be known from the moment your students step foot into your classroom that you will not tolerate any type of bullying. Put up “This is a Bully Free Zone Classroom” posters and establish consequences if students are caught bullying one of their peers.
Set classroom boundaries by providing incentives for kindness. This will discourage bullies from picking on their peers. When you see a student doing a good deed—or sticking up for a friend who’s in a conflict—reward them for their effort in front of others. Give them a “Homework Pass” or extra free time.
Make talking about anti-bullying a routine in your classroom. Set aside time, either every afternoon or once a week to talk about a code of conduct or students’ feelings. It also helps to incorporate anti-bullying into your classroom activities and lessons. Remind each student that the classroom is a safe place to talk about feelings, and similarly, that you are always available to talk when needed.
Give students the tools and knowledge to act appropriately when or if they encounter a bully. Tell them to:
Design a no-bully contract that is appropriate for your grade level. Have each student read and sign the contract that states they will not bully anyone, ever.
It’s important to know when it’s your job to intervene. If you see a situation occur in the classroom, wait and watch for a moment—usually students can work it out themselves. If you do notice that a student is so intimated that they cannot stick up for herself, then it is your duty to step in and try and rectify the situation.
A great way to bully-proof your classroom is by assigning students no-bully projects and activities throughout the week. Students can create a PSA on bullying to share with the school, put on a play, create a no-bully pamphlet, or even teach younger students how to be a positive role model and not a bully. Students can create no-bully posters to display throughout the classroom and school, or create an anti-bullying message to share with other classrooms in different schools.
You can prevent bullying in your classroom by creating a safe, caring classroom community. The most effective way to do this is by modeling appropriate behavior yourself. Always use kind words, never talk down to anyone, and greet students each day with a warm smile. Students learn from watching, and when they see you act accordingly, they too will follow. Classroom meetings are also another great way to foster a close nit classroom community. Try to designate a few minutes each morning to check in with the students. This can really help the withdrawn students to open up and feel safe within the classroom.
Bullying usually takes place in areas that are not closely monitored, such as the back of the classroom, the restroom, or the hallways. To help prevent bullying, make sure you are always visible. If you think you cannot be in all of the areas that bullying may take place, then assign a student to monitor a designated area, or even another teacher.
Bystanders play a crucial role in preventing bullying from ever happening again. Encourage students to become a positive bystander by empowering them to step in, take action, and come forward. This is very hard because children fear they too will get picked on, or be known as a tattletale. Remind students that being bystanders is not the same thing as a tattletale—there are people that can be legitimately hurt without their help—so encourage them to do the right thing.
Ultimately, teachers play a crucial role in preventing bullying from occurring in the classroom. You’re with them most of the day and you can easily detect changes in student behavior if they have been victimized. Be sure to consistently observe your students, intervene when necessary, and always be on the look out to ensure bullying does not occur.
How do you bully-proof your classroom? Please share your ideas with us in the comment section below. We would love to hear your thoughts.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.