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Hopeless About Bullying


Frumteacher struggles with a spiraling, race-tinged bullying situation in her class. Back when she was a student teacher, she recalls, she had vowed she would take a stand against student bullying and "make it stop." But now she realizes that's not so easy:

Yet I feel hopeless. Hopeless for witnessing senseless hatred in my classroom, hopeless because apparently the system did not provide the bullied student with enough care and support, leading him to think that he needed to solve the problem with his fists. How can teachers protect the bullied student, and combat bullying, without setting the student even more apart and without causing the bullying to shift from the classroom to the schoolyard, or the streets?

At our school, use the Olweus Bully Prevention Program. The strategies taught are great for taking the focus and power away from the bully and giving the attention to the other students. Class meetings are held at least 30 minutes per week to teach the class strategies for dealing with bullies. We have just had our Bully Prevention Kick Off and are excited about the stand students are beginning to take against bullying.

National School Boards Association has some excellent resources on its website. One point that it makes is that sometimes "bullying" constitutes harassment--and when race (among other "protected classes) is involved, particularly among students old enough (they suggest 6th grade and up)this should be taught to them.

Another point to remember is that prevention is much more effective than response after the fact. The Olweus program mentioned above is certainly the gold standard as far as the research is concern. NSBA also provides good legal (and practical) advice about the kinds of policies and practices that should be in place--including a requirement that any staff who witness suspected harassment make a report within 24 hours and that each building or other unit (like transportation) have a designated person to receive reports and see that they are investigated. Changing the overall environment to make clear that harassment is not an accepted part of the school culture helps to remove the focus on the victim (where they are easily revictimized) and onto the reasonable expectations of the school and society with regard to treatment of individuals.

As a teacher, I have spent valuable time this past year dealing with the issue of bullying in my classroom. I had read "Nineteen Minutes" by Jodi Picoult, a book that explores bullying and that left me enraged that we aren't doing more as educators. Through brutally honest discussions and confessions, my class began to see the need to take a stand. They signed a declaration against bullying and teasing, and campaigned within the school to get everyone to sign it. I am not going to lie and say that my students never teased or bullied after this, but I will say that when circumstances required it, we sat down and talked about better ways to deal with these situations and resolutions were reached. I have never been so proud of a group of students.

Bullying does occur, and it makes our schools an unsafe place for some kids to attend, let alone learn. As educators, we need to tune in to our students and deal with these situations as they occur. No more turning a blind eye or thinking the problem will go away. And principals need to be supportive of our efforts to build safer schools. I don't care that bullying has always been around. That's like saying cancer has always been around so why bother trying to find a cure. The ramifications of turning a blind eye to bullying are becoming disastrous. It is way past time to look for a cure!

I have been doing a lot of surfing on the internet for ideas to motivate my new students this year to keep this movement going and to spread this powerful message to the entire school. I found an awesome site called teachersfirst.com in my searching. It is very interactive and thought provoking. Utilizing this site would be a great way to start the year off by initiating conversation and creating a safe environment. Check it out.

Teachers, counselors, and principals, let's all work together to take a stand and make a real difference in our schools!

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Recent Comments

  • Teacher World: As a teacher, I have spent valuable time this past read more
  • Margo/Mom: National School Boards Association has some excellent resources on its read more
  • Natalie: At our school, use the Olweus Bully Prevention Program. The read more




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