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Virginia Journal of Education
Ten Steps Educators Can Take to Respond to Bullying
Everyone who works with young people knows how serious bullying can be. It’s not just a rite of passage; it’s a harmful and dangerous practice that some students never get over. A study just released by the University of Virginia shows that half of our state’s middle school students say bullying is a problem at their school—and almost one-third report being physically attacked.
Here, from NEA, are 10 ways you can help get bullying under control in your school and classroom:
1. Pay attention. There are many warning signs that may point to a bullying problem, such as unexplained injuries, lost or destroyed personal items, changes in eating habits, and avoidance of school or other social situations. However, every student may not exhibit warning signs, and some go to great lengths to hide it. This is where paying attention is most valuable. Engage students on a daily basis and ask open-ended questions that encourage conversation.
2. Don’t ignore it. Never assume that a situation is harmless teasing. Different students have different levels of coping; what may be considered teasing to one may be humiliating and devastating to another. Whenever a student feels threatened in any way, take it seriously, and assure the student that you are there for them and will help.
3. When you see something – do something. Intervene as soon as you even think there may be a problem between students. Don’t brush it off as “kids are just being kids. They’ll get over it.” Some never do, and it affects them for a lifetime. All questionable behavior should be addressed immediately to keep a situation from escalating. Summon other adults if you deem the situation may get out of hand. Be sure to always refer to your school’s anti-bullying policy.
4. Remain calm. When you intervene, refuse to argue with either student. Model the respectful behavior you expect from the students. First make sure everyone is safe and that no one needs immediate medical attention. Reassure the students involved, as well as the bystanders. Explain to them what needs to happen next – bystanders go on to their expected destination while the students involved should be taken separately to a safe place.
5. Deal with students individually. Don’t attempt to sort out the facts while everyone is present, don’t allow the students involved to talk with one another, and don’t ask bystanders to tell what they saw in front of others. Instead, talk with the individuals involved – including bystanders – on a one-on-one basis. This way, everyone will be able to tell their side of the story without worrying about what others may think or say.
6. Don’t make the students involved apologize and/or shake hands on the spot. Label the behavior as bullying. Explain that you take this type of behavior very seriously and that you plan to get to the bottom of it before you determine what should be done next and any resulting consequences based on your school’s anti-bullying policy. This empowers the bullied child – and the bystanders – to feel that someone will finally listen to their concerns and be fair about outcomes.
7. Hold bystanders accountable. Bystanders provide bullies an audience, and often actually encourage bullying. Explain that this type of behavior is wrong, will not be tolerated, and that they also have a right and a responsibility to stop bullying. Identify yourself as a caring adult that they can always approach if they are being bullied and/or see or suspect bullying.
8. Listen and don’t pre-judge. It is very possible that the person you suspect to be the bully may actually be a bullied student retaliating or a “bully’s” cry for help. It may also be the result of an undiagnosed medical, emotional or psychological issue. Rather than make any assumptions, listen to each child with an open mind.
9. Get appropriate professional help. Be careful not to give any advice beyond your level of expertise. Rather than make any assumptions, if you deem there are any underlying and/or unsolved issues, refer the student to a nurse, counselor, school psychologist, social worker, or other appropriate professional.
10. Become trained to handle bullying situations. If you work with students in any capacity, it is important to learn the proper ways to address bullying. Visit www.nea.org/bullyfree for information and resources. You can also take the pledge to stop bullying, as well as learn how to create a Bully Free program in your school and/or community.
Don’t Miss These Opportunities From the NEA Foundation
Here are two more ways The NEA Foundation can help you out:
Professional development. Does high-quality professional development for aspiring teacher leaders, for free, sound like a bit of a pipedream? Maybe not, if you know where to look. The NEA Foundation now offers free online courses designed for educators at every level.
Learn more by visiting www.neafoundation.org/pages/courses. These offerings have been developed by content experts and make use of a rich selection of resources and activities. Some courses are designed for self-study while others are intended for self-facilitated teams. Although most course sessions have been designed to be taken sequentially, participants are encouraged to navigate and access content in a way that best meets their individual or team needs.
Want to learn more about a wide range of topics, such as teacher evaluation or effective school-community collaboration? Check out www.neafoundation.org/pages/enroll-in-online-courses.
Grant opportunities. The NEA Foundation provides Student Achievement and Learning & Leadership grants at two different funding levels: $2,000 or $5,000.
Student Achievement Grants aim to improve the academic achievement of students in U.S. public schools in any subject area.
Learning & Leadership Grants are designed to support public school teachers, public education support professionals, and/or faculty and staff in public institutions of higher education for one of the following two purposes: participation in high-quality professional development experiences, such as summer institutes or action research; or collegial study, including study groups, action research, lesson study, or mentoring experiences for faculty or staff new to an assignment. You can apply at www.neafoundation.org/pages/grants-to-educators.
Deadline for the next round of grants is February 1, 2014.
For Better Communication with Parents
Parents have an absolutely critical role to play in the academic success of their children. Here are some steps you can take to make them part of the team:
1. Contact them early—before there is bad news.
2. Focus on a child’s strengths. Parents see themselves in their children and may become defensive.
3. Respect parents’ schedules. Many work long hours and can’t meet or communicate with teachers during regular hours.
4. Stress collaboration instead of criticism. Say something like, “How can we work together to improve Mary’s study habits?”
5. Be sure to ask parents if there is anything you need to know about their child that may have an impact on his or her schoolwork.
6. Send a monthly (or twice-a-month) newsletter or email to parents.
7. Post grades online.
8. Create a parent email list for updates and assignments.
9. Emphasize that you and the parents are partners working together on behalf of their child.
Why Investing in School Infrastructure Makes Sense
• Improves student and staff morale by establishing learning communities instead of isolated classrooms in a long hallway.
• Makes the inclusion of cutting-edge technology much easier.
• Adds to property values, thereby improving the community.
• Enhances the school as a community center.
• Improves the offering of extracurricular activities for students, giving them a constructive avenue for learning through academic and physical accomplishments.
• Improves the environment for offering after-school learning activities to meet the needs of the community, such as tutoring services, clubs and more.
Not Just the Teacher’s Pet
Do you teach students in grades preK-8? Do you love animals and think that young people can learn valuable lessons about responsibility and kindness by caring for a pet? If so, you may want to investigate this: The Pets in the Classroom program is currently accepting grant applications for teachers who either want a pet at school for their students or who already have one and could use a hand paying for its care.
There are seven types of grants, and they can cover the purchase of a new pet, or pet environments and supplies if there’s already a pet in the classroom.
To learn more, visit www.PetsintheClassroom.org.