5 Ways to Prevent Bullying in School
We find ourselves in the midst of National Bullying Prevention Month. Recent statistics show that one in three kids is bullied at school. If we include activities done in the community, including cyberbullying, that number increases drastically. If you're like me, you're wondering what can be done in the classroom to help prevent bullying and help to manage its effects. Following are five activities you can start doing in the classroom today to address the issue of bullying:
- Create classroom rules that address bullying. Let your students help create the rules and place them on a poster or bulletin board. Use positive language. For example, "We will accept all our classmates, even those who are different than us," rather than, "We will not make fun of people." It is not a bad idea to recite the rules as a class at the start of the day. Students must know they will be treated with respect by you and that they are expected to treat others the same.
- Stick to the rules. Your students can help determine the consequences for breaking the rules. Ultimately, it is up to you to enforce them, though. This means you must be alert and observant, and you must listen to those who bring their concerns to you. If someone breaks the rules, he or she should be addressed individually. Your workday is full, and you are busy from the time the first bell rings until the kids go home. Your students must know you are never too busy to hear their concerns and to keep them safe, though. After all, if they do not feel safe, all your great teaching will be for naught.
- Allow students to share their concerns. You must let students know you will listen to their concerns and you will take action. On an informal level, students should be allowed to come to you at lunch, before and after school, or even during the day if needed. On a more formal level, you can host a brown-bag lunch meeting once a week or every other week, letting students use this time to share concerns and to brainstorm ways to handle them. You can share examples of positive behaviors you witnessed as well as negative ones you observed or heard about. Allow students to role-play how they might have handled the situations.
- Promote support of others and acts of caring. You can incorporate all sorts of activities into the classroom. In addition to the brown-bag lunches, you can have a compliment circle. In this activity, the entire class sits in a circle. Students take turns giving others compliments, recognizing others for positive behavior and good deeds. You might find you need to start the compliments. It's likely the same kids are complemented each meeting, so you will want to find a way to ensure all kids are complimented every couple circles. Perhaps you pull sticks with their names on them, or you can toss a softball to a child and someone needs to compliment him or her. When that is done, the ball returns to you to toss again. Another simple activity is to have a "Got Caught Being Kind" bulletin board in the classroom. As you see or learn of students doing random acts of kindness, you can jot this down on a notecard and post the card on the board. Students can be encouraged to write these acts on the cards and hand to you, as well. Keep a stack of note cards in the classroom as being kind is contagious.
- Show a film and host a discussion. There are all sorts of movies and TV shows that can be shared in the classroom, depending on your students' ages (and as long as you have the appropriate permission). In honor of Bullying Prevention Month, Netflix has highlighted some great movies to stream. Some to consider: Hercules, Billy Elliot, Cyberbully, and The War. Of course, there are some great clips you can find on YouTube as well. Check out He's a Bully, Charlie Brown. Some other movies that can be good conversation starters include How to Eat Fried Worms, Karate Kid, and Mean Girls. Of course, you will want to know your audience. With older kids, definitely no younger than middle school, you might consider showing Bully (2011).
Resources abound online. You can find all sorts of support and activities for your classroom by visiting various sites. Some I recommend include stopbullying.gov, bullyingnoway.gov.au, tolerance.org/toolkit/anti-bullying-resources, and mediasmarts.ca/cyberbullying/resources-teachers. Check out thebullyproject.com for more info on the film and to review all sorts of resources, including tools for students, parents, and educators.