As teachers, we know that bullying is sadly a part of what some of our students deal with on a regular basis. It is harmful and can have a lifelong effect, such as causing low self-esteem, depression, social isolation, and suicidal thoughts.
“I felt like there were times where I could never get anything right or that I could never fit in. I felt like who I was was inherently flawed.”
"When I started at my international school some of my classmates were nice. But others called me awful names daily to my face and in my earshot. They shunned me from any social interaction and laughed at my accent. I felt so alone at school. I hated school. I wondered where God was."
The experience and impact of bullying do not contribute to an environment in which transformational education can be facilitated and can hinder a child in their journey of faith. So, how can we be better at preventing it and responding to it?
When we hear situations like these, it can break our hearts that children are going through this. There are several ways that you can help prevent these things from happening in the first place or mitigate the impact your students feel.
One of the biggest ways you can prevent bullying is by ensuring that the culture in your school is one that is aware of and does not tolerate bullying. This can happen by creating an anti-bullying policy that is freely accessible and regularly promoted to show that your school will take bullying seriously. If your school does not have an anti-bullying policy, this site
can help you consider how to write one.
Another way to help prevent bullying is to talk about bullying and unhealthy relationships. It is crucial that students know what bullying is, how it might impact others, and what to do if they are either being bullied or witness bullying. These conversations need to be age appropriate and align with the school’s antibullying policy. Just as with the rest of safeguarding, with bullying we want to practice ATE:
- Awareness: We want to raise awareness with our students as to what bullying is, how it might impact others and how the school responds to bullying.
- Trust: We want to build trust between the students and the school. This could be building trust with the staff or the school process for when bullying does occur. If students do not think the school will respond well to bullying, they will not tell the school that it is happening.
- Empowerment: As awareness and trust are built, we start to provide a safe space where students feel empowered to speak out about bullying that they have either seen or experienced. Talking about who they can speak to during small group discussions or assemblies and even advertising this on posters and bookmarks can empower students to break the silence.
Whatever your role is in a school, you play an important role in preventing and tackling bullying. As well as looking to prevent the occurrence of bullying, we need to explore our response to bullying. Any response needs to address three different parties: the student(s) that were bullied, the student(s) who witnessed the bullying, and the person(s) practicing the bullying behavior. Identifying these parties might be more challenging for bullying behavior that occurs online rather than at school.
Remember, it is always important to listen to those who are involved. This helps the students to have a voice, feel valued and ensures a fair response. Depending on your school’s policy, this may be your responsibility or someone else’s (for example the school’s safeguarding team).
Here are some other tips that can be helpful:
- The only way to stop bullying is to acknowledge that it happens and create a talking culture in your school. Take time to talk to your students whether there are any bullying hot spots and if there is anything you could do differently together to stop bullying.
- It is not a child’s fault if they are bullied. Children should never be told to just ignore it, or to change who they are.
- Avoid gender stereotypes when it comes to tackling bullying, for example “boys should just punch it out”.
- Consider a restorative justice approach. Restorative justice focuses not on punishment, but on making things right and reintegrating the person who caused harm back into the school community with the skills and awareness to make better decisions in the future.
After listening to and responding to a bullying situation, we must provide all children involved with relevant care. Ask each party what they need to minimize the impact of harm from this instance of bullying and how you can help reduce the risk of it reoccurring.
As teachers you are in the front lines to notice and respond to any bullying. As Uncle Ben (or Aunt May if you’re an MCU fan) said to Peter Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility.” This means you’re in the position to have a life changing, positive impact on the everyday lives of your students, especially those who are being bullied!
Here are some links with added resources that you might find helpful:
TeachBeyond's Safeguarding team desires and works toward seeing children and vulnerable adults thriving in safe, caring, and nurturing environments. Feel free to reach out to them at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or concerns.
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