Bullying Left Unchecked: Proactively Keeping Classrooms and Schools From Hitting the Tipping Point
Two recent blog posts from our partner the Developmental Studies Center (DSC) bring light to the important role educators play in not only addressing bullying, but also proactively preventing it by creating a positive school culture where students and educators can work through the root of the problem rather than just the symptoms. Ginger Cook's post poses the question, "How might we proactively keep classrooms and schools from hitting the 'tipping point,' and stop bullying before it even starts?" Ginger outlines five ways educators can get to the root of bullying and develop a positive school climate.
- Develop respectful and supportive relationships: It's amazing how little children know about each other, even when they have been in the same class for years. Provide multiple opportunities for students to get to know each other on a more personal level through team-building exercises and other activities.
- Provide opportunities for collaboration and service: Give students a chance to connect with younger and older students through cross-age buddies activities. That sense of connectedness will reap rewards in the classroom, on the bus, in the cafeteria, and in school life.
- Create opportunities for student influence and self-direction: Set norms for the classroom and use collaborative structures like class meetings for decision-making and problem-solving with the class.
- Teach core values and skills: Be explicit about the importance of respect, responsibility, and helpfulness.
- Get to know students individually—their passions, hopes, and dreams—and help them make connections to other students.
Kenni Smith's DSC blog post highlights how Lincoln Olbrycht, a 6th grade teacher, provides students with timely feedback reinforcing the importance of respect, responsibility, and helpfulness (number four from the above list). Lincoln then goes on to facilitate a conversation about the norms of the classroom and communication (number three).
On this particular day, Lincoln's kids were engaged in an academic activity in small groups. As they were working, he orchestrated a whole class discussion in which kids were chiming in from all over the room. One student said something, stumbling as he said it, and another student laughed.
Lincoln, who is quite laid back ordinarily, a flexible and accommodating person, stopped immediately. "Wait a minute," he said. "We don't do that here. We do not do that here." And he got as serious and stern as I ever saw him in eight years of observing his class. "Why don't we do that here?" he said a beat later, much more mildly, and right then and there, he facilitated a discussion around that question.
Lincoln didn't lecture. What he did was to make clear that this was a crucial issue for the life of their classroom. First, he signaled that there were real, serious ground rules and that they were morally based. Then, he gave the kids ownership of—and responsibility for—those ground rules by asking them "Why?"
Educators play a crucial role in creating a school climate where students understand that not only is bullying unacceptable, but that it also has a tremendous negative affect on people's lives. Although some educators may have the skills necessary to achieve this, others are struggling. Learn more about the DSC Way of creating a culture of learning where students are motivated to do the thinking and talking that builds community, literacy skills, personal relationships, and personal responsibility while engaging teachers in reflective professional development.
Educators, what strategies have helped you address the root of bullying and develop a positive classroom/school climate?