Friday, 2 November 2018

An Educator’s Guide for Helping Students and Parents End Bullying By Anna Andersen, guest writer for Ability Online

Bullying has always been a problem in schools all over the world. With the emergence of cyberbullying, the problem has become even worse and can extend outside the walls of the school. Children can be very cruel to one another, and the harassment that sometimes even includes physical violence can leave a lasting negative impact on kids who are regularly bullied. 

Intervening in bullying situations is important, but it can be difficult to know how to approach the problem. If you’re a teacher worried about the well-being of kids in your care due to bullying, here’s what you need to know about how bullying affects kids and what you can do to end it in your classroom and school. 

Bullying and Mental Health 

Childhood and adolescence are often challenging periods in a person’s life. Kids have to learn an immense number of life skills and get through school while navigating relationships and discovering who they are. It’s a formative period that can have a lasting impact on a students mental healthif negative experiences, like bullying, occur. 

Research has shown that there is a strong link between bullying and mental health, putting bullied children at greater risk for developing psychiatric disorders both during childhood and later in life. Young adults who were bullied as children are more likely to develop anxiety or depression, and bullying can even make victims more likely to commit suicide. A few comments might seem harmless enough, but ridicule and bullying can have lasting negative implications, and it’s not something kids should be left to deal with on their own. 

Why Teachers Need to Step In

When it comes to some issues their students face, teachers shouldn’t necessarily get involved. Kids can often work out minor disputes between friends on their own, while in other situations a parent or school counselor may be a more appropriate resource for a child. When it comes to other issues, like bullying, however, educators need to step in and intervene. This is not only to help end the bullying itself, but to demonstrate what healthy relationships between peers looks like and to teach students to speak up on behalf of others. 

Teachers spend more time with students than anyone but their parents or guardians in most cases. Since many kids don’t report bullyingor even recognize it, educators have a unique opportunity to witness social bullying, which is more likely to take place in front of a teacher than physical bullying. Teachers need to be an advocate and support system for students, intervening as necessary and acting as a role model for appropriate behavior. 

How Teachers Can Help

So how can you intervene in a way that actually stops bullying, rather than just pushing it out of your view? Bullies who are simply punished might just continue their bullying out of educators’ earshot or even online, where it’s harder to detect. 

Your first step should be to get very familiar with your school and school district’s policies on bullying. If your district doesn’t offer resources, talk with your principle and colleagues and discuss a bullying prevention plan to help you educate and support your students while providing appropriate discipline when necessary. 

Set Clear Expectations

It’s also important to establish your classroom as a place of respect. Make it clear that there is no room for any kind of bullying, from physical violence to maliciously leaving someone out. Establishing these ground rules up front will allow you to intervene immediately if you witness bullying and will show students when intervention should occur. Doing activities as a classroom and providing ongoing education on the subject of bullying will help to keep the issue top of mind. 

Involve the Students

Lots of kids have bullied someone and many more have stood by and watched it happen. Empowering your students to regulate one another’s behavior and stand up for their peers can be very effective. 70.6% of students have seen bullying at school, but incidents of bullying stop within 10 seconds 57% of the time when someone speaks up and intervenes. You can’t be everywhere at all times, so you need to clearly teach your students what’s right, what’s wrong, and when they should step in. 

In the end, it’s all about supporting the kids. Listen to them, find out what they need, and work with them to end bullying in your classroom for good.