Creating Control: Managing Bullying in the Classroom
One of every four students reports being bullied during the school year, according to the National Bullying Prevention Center. Bullying in the classroom has always been a problem, and educators are now taking bullying seriously. In today’s classroom, teachers must ensure that they offer all students a classroom environment free of bullying. Implementing classroom management strategies to create a safe haven from bullying can help students not only in their academic performance but also in their emotional development.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers this definition of bullying on StopBullying.gov: “Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.” Bullying often occurs several times across a period of time and may lead to lasting and serious issues. There are several different types of bullying that can occur throughout childhood and into adolescence. Bullying has a wide-reaching and large impact on all involved. A 2010 study found that only 36 percent of children who were bullied reported it to a teacher or other adult at school. The top reasons for bullying include looks, body shape and race.
Types of Bullying
The act of bullying can occur in countless different ways, but there are four main types of bullying: verbal bullying, physical bullying, social bullying and cyberbullying.
Verbal bullying involves the use of words to create a power imbalance. A bully may use name-calling, threats and other disrespectful comments to disparage someone. While some adults may chalk up verbal bullying to playful teasing, the act can still have a significant effect. Children may experience emotional changes or respond with hurtful comments in other parts of their life.
Using physical intimidation is the hallmark of physical bullying. Bullies resort to any kind of physical contact including hitting, kicking, tripping, pushing, punching, taking and breaking things or other attacks. Physical bullying occurs when bullies are bigger, stronger and more aggressive than their peers. The practice is far easier to identify compared to other forms of bullying. Bruises, cuts and scrapes that go unexplained are telling signs that something is wrong.
Also referred to as relational aggression, social bullying involves using social activities as a way to hurt and sabotage others. This type of bully uses social manipulation to ostracize someone from a group, spread rumors and break confidence. Social bullies want to increase their own social standing by lowering someone else’s. This is perhaps the toughest form of bullying to catch. At times, students do not fully understand how they are being manipulated. Girls are more likely to engage in social bullying than any other kind of bullying.
A recent trend in bullying has been the rapid emergence of cyberbullying. Youth are using the Internet, cellphones and other technology to harass, threaten, embarrass and bully other people. This may involve social networking, text messages and emails. Cyberbullying is difficult to identify because it often occurs anonymously, a detail that emboldens students who wouldn’t engage in other kinds of bullying.
Effects of Bullying
Prolonged bullying can have a strong impact on all involved, whether it is the victim, the bully or even innocent bystanders. As these facts from StopBullying.gov showcase, the effects of bullying go far beyond when the occurrence comes to an end.
As expected, victims of bullying can face severely negative effects due to the experience. They are more likely to face increased feelings of sadness and loneliness that can lead to depression or anxiety. It is also common for victims to have changes in their sleep and eating patterns, as well as a loss of interest in their favorite activities. Victims of bullying also perform more poorly in academics, from lower GPAs to lower scores on standardized tests.
Despite using bullying for self-gain, bullies themselves are prone to facing issues down the road. Bullies are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs in both adolescence and as an adult. They are more likely to participate in fights, vandalize property and drop out of school. As adults, bullies are more likely to be convicted of a crime and receive traffic citations. Bullies also are abusive toward their partners or children at a higher rate.
Bullies and their victims are not the only ones who face negative effects as a result of bullying. The entire classroom is likely to feel the effects of bullying when it occurs. Classrooms with these issues have more students who miss or skip school. The classroom environment can become fearful and disrespectful, an obstacle to learning. This can have a snowball effect, leading to bigger issues in the future.
Managing Bullying in the Classroom
As an educator, being proactive is the best way to either prevent bullying before it starts or stop bullying in its tracks. Here are some tips on managing bullying in the classroom.
Before Bullying Starts
The key to bullying prevention is building a safe environment for students. Developing a school climate where students feel safe encourages them to not only refrain from bullying but also stop it when it starts. Schools committed to a positive school climate should create a firm bullying policy that helps students understand that the practice is not tolerated. By enlisting the help of all teachers, staff and even parents, students can have reinforcement from all directions. Teachers should also reinforce their own rules when possible. Expectations about bullying should be clear for all students, with rules being simple and direct. Loop in students to help them describe what a climate of respect looks like. Teachers can also keep tabs on potential bullying hot spots where the practice occurs, like playgrounds, bathrooms and the lunchroom.
The reality is that bullying will happen. When it does, educators must act. Teachers must first ensure that the victims are safe. If it is a physical situation, victims could require medical attention, and in extreme bullying, they may have suicidal thoughts. Take the opportunity to address the bully in private and give the clear message that his or her actions are unacceptable. If bystanders have intervened already, praise them for doing so and underline the importance of stopping the activity.
Use the chance to show that you as a teacher care for the victims and the bullies.
Teachers must also implement consequences for the bully, if possible with guidance counselors and other administrators. Adults have to offer guidance and prevent further traumatization. Finally, use the chance to show that you as a teacher care for the victims and the bullies. Remind students that you can be trusted and reinforce that bullies need not revert to that behavior.
Developing Skills in Education
Properly handling bullying is one of the many ways educators are able to create an optimal learning environment for all students. Concordia University Texas offers online graduate education programs that provide instruction on modern education trends and can help teachers advance in their careers. The online learning environment is ideal for working teachers who need convenience and flexibility while pursuing a high-quality education.