How to Empower Students and Create a Bully Free Classroom
As we head into the end of 2018, life gets busier and kids get antsy. Mean words can sneak out as students come impatient with each other. Or perhaps you just have one of those sneaky word bullies in your class. You know the ones, the sneaky ones that like to whisper mean things to tear others down. The ones that like to say mean things in front of a whole group of kids to get a reaction and an audience. They like to turn everyone against one person.
If you think it doesn’t then you’re not paying attention. Kids are just like adults, they have bad days, bad examples of behavior for home or media, and just get frustrated. They can take their frustration and insecurities out on others very easily.
A friend came to me the other day for advice about a word bully in her daughter’s class. Girls can some of the cutest and meanest people on the face of the earth. I’m talking wicked mean. Another girl (who used to be her friend) is a master at the sneaky insult and it was starting to affect this girl’s self-esteem. This bright, funny and confident girl was starting to pick on herself. Ugh! Like any girl needs help with that?!
Here’s the problem…
we live at 100 mph in the classroom. It’s impossible to separate kids all day long. It just isn’t realistic. Monitoring every comment is not possible either. Kids are sneaky, whether it’s a sly pinch or a sneaky comment it’s hard to catch and still do our jobs. We don’t control their whole day. While we might do a good job in our own classrooms, we cannot control what happens at specials, on the playground or in the lunchroom. So what to do?
You really can create an (almost) bully free class culture.
We can’t control the bullies in kids. But we can create a safe place and norms for our students where they will stand up for one another and speak the truth out loud. That’s the best bully prevention there is.
Explain to your students that there are only 2 rules in your class WORK HARD and RESPECT. - property, people, feelings, adults, students, themselves, words, actions …
Have mock situations for various problems encountered in school written out as scripts.
Model and act out each situation - one or two per day until you get through each one. (as new situations come up, practice those)
Demonstrate how to deal with the situation, and how the situation could be avoided. What they should have done.
Reinforce: Take the time to notice and compliment students for standing up for each other, problem solving situations and asking for help when needed. Make this a priority.
Practice throughout the year after breaks or when problems seem to be cropping up.
Teach students what to say. That was a mean thing to say (or do). That wasn’t respectful. Please stop and don’t do that again. or What were you hoping to accomplish by saying that?
Have a safe spot for students to move to and still learn when someone is bothering them while you’re teaching. Train your students how and when to use it.
Train students in your expectations for other times when they are not in your classroom including what to do it if they are having trouble handling a situation.
Create scripts for those situations and practice them (in those spaces if you can). Enlist help/support from specials teachers, lunch room attendants, etc., if possible.
May your next month be peaceful and bully free.