As an educator, what can they do to make an impact? How can they create a classroom climate that prevents bullying, but also put interventions in place that stop the behavior in its beginning stages? Experts in education and mental health counseling have come up with the following strategies.
Teach kindness and empathy
When students are able to approach ideas and problems from multiple perspectives, they’re less likely to bully others.
From the earliest ages, students should participate in activities that boost social-emotional learning. Teachers can find ways to help children understand and appreciate their identity as well as others’. To do this requires empathy and kindness, two skills that educators like Susan Patterson, who leads a cyberbullying course at Lesley University, believe can be taught.
“Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and teachers need to embed this skill into their curriculum,” says Patterson. “We need to do identity work with children early on so that kids know who they are and who everybody else is and what their place is in the world.”
One way to do this is to have kids get together and talk about their differences. Educators should allow them to practice conflict resolution, work through problems, and build their understanding of those around them.
Create opportunities for connection
Fostering a sense of community in the classrooms can lower bullying incidents and facilitate healing for targeted students. Research shows that when targeted students feel connected to peers, they’re better able to cope with being bullied. Studies also indicate that teaching students to speak up when they witness bullying behavior, and to take a stand against it, can reduce future bullying situations by more than 50 percent.
Use arts to create context
The arts can be a powerful tool for helping young people see situations from different perspectives. Using drama, literature, and the visual arts as a vehicle for conversation, educators can help students understand the negative impact of bullying.
Minimize ‘concentric circles’ in schools
It’s a truth that most teachers don’t like to talk about: Educators can be bullies, too. And when teachers feel bullied by colleagues, their students can also become negatively impacted.
In order to stop the spread of bullying from the leadership level down to students, teachers should start by looking within their own classroom. After a bad day or tense interaction with a colleague, they should try not to bring negativity into their teaching. They should rather focus energy on cultivating a learning environment built on positivity, openness, and support.
Participate in simulations
Theorizing about how to prevent and respond to bullying in schools is one thing. Witnessing it for the first time is entirely another. Without adequate pre-service training, it can be difficult for new teachers to know exactly how they’ll react when bullying situations arise.
—Source: Lesley University