Achieving a bullying-free classroom is a constant struggle. Bullying is a huge concern for parents, teachers, and most especially for students. Almost 70% of them report being a witness of bullying at their schools.
Among other consequences, bullying increases mental health issues in pre-teens, teens, and young adults; increases school dropout rate for high school children; not to mention the role it plays in a number of mass shootings in school campuses.
There are two direct stakeholders of this practice: the victims and the bullies. Although the bullies are victims of environment and past experiences, these factors shouldn’t make us ignore their behavior towards other kids.
As bullying is a complex issue, with various facets and outcomes, its solution is also not simple. We need solutions that not only identify bullies right way to prevent further damage, but also protect victims from emotional and physical turmoil as a result therefrom.
These components of solutions should focus on creating awareness among students, asserting a stance of zero-tolerance towards bullying, and connecting with both parties on a deep level.
How to Set a Bullying-free Classroom and School Environment
1. Create Awareness
In a way, bullying is a by-product of faulty, or non-existent, communication. Bullies in schools and other places are either ignored souls who have never connected to fellow human beings at a healthy level or they are recipients of exaggerated praise and attention, which they know they don’t deserve.
Victims, on the other hand, suffer from effects of lack of communication as they often do not understand they are being bullied. Plus, these victims tend to mute their feelings in favor of popular opinion from bullies and their supporters.
Another group of related parties is that of bystanders. These students also don’t understand the far-reaching consequences of bullying and usually normalize this behavior.
Teachers can create awareness among these three groups of students by giving them information about the types of bullying, their examples, related stories, and modeling exercises.
They can also create a line of communication and encourage students to report the matter in confidence.
Including parents in creating awareness campaigns will yield better results.
2. Assert Zero-Tolerance Policy
The school should be strict about bullying. There should be zero-tolerance towards physical assault and strict rules against verbal assault and smear campaigns.
The sad thing is that we are only able to attend to verbal and social bullying if students report these issues to us. In normal circumstances, such bullying is not visible to the teacher or any other outsider of the social group of classmates.
Although the verbal assaults and alienation campaigns are not obvious to an onlooker, its signs are difficult to ignore. Low self-esteem levels in a few kids in the class, class’ negative behavior to them, and psychological issues of these kids are a few tell-tale signs of such behavior.
It is common for schools to uphold no-tolerance policy for physical assault, but they should extend the repercussions to include social bullying.
Yes, such policies will raise the burden on teachers to define and detect subtle gestures among students. But this additional responsibility will also raise positivity and create a bullying-free classroom and healthier school environment.
3. Maintain Emotional Connection with Students
Teachers should be open to every kid in the classroom so they can come forward to report unhealthy activity.
This can be a more cumbersome tactic. Let’s face it, who can connect to a class full of pre-teens and teens.
It seems more difficult than it actually is. We can connect to our students by only keeping their best interests at heart, or in other words by putting our hearts into the situation. If we closely look into the day-to-day behaviors of our students, we will find that we can tell their moods and changes in approach and behavior.
That insight is all we need to safeguard our students from emotional turmoil while they are at school.
At the same time, the teachers should remain attuned to changes in students’ behaviors. If a student is acting funny all of a sudden without supporting changes in his familial environment or health issue the teacher should intervene to know if they are secure at school premises.
But the need for emotional connection doesn’t end with identifying the energy levels of students. As teachers, we have to step up when the need arises and provide a safe, bullying-free classroom for our students to concentrate in their study. We can do this by providing positive feedback and an assurance that we are there to support them.
Connecting these students with school counselors and other authorities is the next obvious step to take towards their protection.
Our other, less obvious, duty is to create an unconditional understanding of bullies and create a safe place for their improvement without judgment. Most bullies at school level are sociable souls who hold a different perspective on life. Connecting with their perspective and accepting them for it hold key to their healthier social interactions.
There are three areas which need attention to develop a bullying-free classroom environment at school. The most important of these is creating awareness and a line of communication. Other areas of attention are upholding strict school-wide policies and teachers’ understanding of students’ emotions.
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What can you add to these? How do you create a bullying-free classroom environment?
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