Preventing bullying or tackling an existing bullying problem takes an entire school. Action is required of administrators, teachers, students, and parents. On a larger scale, school culture and environment is crucial for students to feel safe and to prevent bullying actions.
“A safe and supportive school climate can help prevent bullying. Safety starts in the classroom. Students should also feel and be safe everywhere on campus—in the cafeteria, in the library, in the rest rooms, on the bus, and on the playground. Everyone at school can work together to create a climate where bullying is not acceptable.”
Stopbullying.gov lists building a safe environment as a core preventer in schools, and offers three areas of action to consider: Create a safe and supportive environment, manage classrooms to prevent bullying, and conduct classroom meetings. The California Department of Education published a comprehensive report titled “Bullying at School,” which also lent suggested actions regarding school culture and environment for administrators and teachers to address bullying in schools using school and classroom environment. Here is a list of key suggestions, recommendations, and in-class examples.
Schoolwide: Create a safe and supportive environment
- Establish a culture of inclusion and respect that welcomes all students. Reward students when they show thoughtfulness and respect for peers, adults, and the school
- Make sure students interact safely and monitor bullying “hot spots” in and around the building
- Train school staff to prevent bullying
- Post clear expectations for behavior, including the no-bullying rule & the consequences for breaking that rule
- Provide schoolwide and classroom activities designed to build students’ self-esteem, such as showcasing special talents, hobbies, interests, and abilities
In the classroom: Manage classrooms to prevent bullying
- Create ground rules, and develop these rules with students so they set their own climate of respect and responsibility
- Last October, during National Bullying Prevention and Awareness Month, Julia Cremin, a 6th grade Reading, Language Arts, and Math teacher explained how she deals with bullying in her classroom. She begins every year with a social contract (and acknowledges the groan it elicits from many education professionals), but explains how it helps her class form deeper bonds and shared expectations.
“I make sure to guide them to think about how they should interact with each other in a respectful way. It can be helpful to pose this question to students as, ‘What should the classroom look, sound and feel like in order to make sure everyone has a safe and productive learning environment?’ The fact that these guidelines grew organically from the students gives them a real sense of ownership in the stake of the classroom. From here on out, all student behavior must be in line with these guidelines.”
- Use positive terms, like what to do, rather than what not to do
- Support school-wide rules
- Reinforce the rules—be a role model and follow the rules yourself
- Incorporate activities that foster mutual understanding and appreciation, such as research projects or invitations to guest speakers
- Make expectations clear. Keep your requests simple, direct, and specific.
- Provide students with the opportunity to discuss bullying and enlist their support in defining bullying as an unacceptable behavior. Ask students to define what they think it means to be a bully, bystander, ally, and friend.
In Mrs. Kremin’s class, once these definitions are formalized, she says she “looks for opportunities to compliment students when they are working well with each other or when they help each other out in some small way. By focusing attention on the behavior that we want to see, it helps keep our classroom environment positive. In our classroom, we don’t spend a lot of time talking about bullying because it rarely has a chance to rear its ugly head.”
When strategizing about bullying prevention, don’t forget about school environment and classroom culture! In a time that bullying occurs not only in person but online, it is more important than ever for administrators and teachers to create a safe environment for students. Even attempting to implement a few of the examples above in a classroom may make a difference for one student.
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