According to bullying and classroom behavioral experts at the Department of Health and Human Services, the right environment in the classroom can help eliminate bullying behavior. By creating a safe and nourishing environment and making sure that all your students understand the rules and culture of your classroom, you can reduce the risk that bullying behavior will occur in your class.
Set expectations and follow up
Have a conversation with your class about the rules you’ll be following for the year. Depending on the age of your students, you can talk about feelings and empathy, awareness of bullying and what to do if a student spots bullying behavior. By incorporating bullying prevention as part of your overall classroom culture, your kids know what is expected and what will not be tolerated in your room. Create a board specifically about bullying and what you expect students to do about it and offer interactive and engaging student projects to go along with it.
Make a safe and supportive place
Make sure there are no spots in your classroom that could give students the opportunity to bully others. If you have a closet or tall furniture that obstructs your view, make a point of visiting this area or making it inaccessible as a student hangout. Most bullying occurs away from adult supervision, and by eliminating these private zones you make it more difficult for bullies to target prey without being noticed.
Identify and support victims
If you notice that one or more children are being singled out by others in a negative way, intervening promptly can help. Kids that are afraid to ride the bus or go on to the playground may be being targeted in these often under-supervised areas.
Bullying is contagious, so often a child that is victimized by one aggressor will become the target of others as well. Prompt intervention is a must; if you immediately put a halt to the potential bullying behavior, it is much less likely to flourish in your classroom.
No matter how safe your classroom is, if you rely on aides or support staff during recess, on the way to activities or lunch, they need to watch and enforce your classroom rules. Your kids need to learn that the classroom rules follow them throughout the school, and being monitored by a different adult is not an excuse for poor behavior. Train your helpers or aides to watch for the common signs of bullying and let them know if you have been experiencing a problem.
Books, social stories, films and other learning materials that encourage social emotional learning are a must for the classroom. Discussions about these activities and materials opens the lines of communication and improves your classroom’s understanding of the emotional dynamics and cost of bullying. They also give you the chance to model respect and portray the type of behavior you’d most like to see in school.
Bullying is a challenge for every school and every educator, but by addressing the topic proactively and outfitting your classroom, helpers and students with the right tools you can make your space a safe and welcoming zone for everyone.