How to Handle Bullying in the Classroom

Whitney Gordon
Whitney Gordon
Special Education and English Teacher; Ed.S. in Teacher Leadership, Thomas University, GA
Two kids arguing and a teacher talking to them

Bullying is an age-old problem, a dangerous condition that annihilates self-esteem, and can lead to serious violence and even suicide. Currently, the evolution of technology and culture has changed how bullies operate and how much access they have to victims. It is of vital importance for teachers to combat bullying in the classroom any way we can. Here are some steps teachers can take to prevent and address bullying.

Set Clear Expectations Early

Start the year by explaining that there is zero tolerance for bullying in your classroom. This should happen the first day, if possible. Provide examples of what bullying looks like – all students don’t understand what constitutes bullying. Let students know that there will always be consequences for bullying. Most importantly, explain the importance of kindness and acceptance, and review this information throughout the year.

Know and Follow School and District Policies

Every school and district has specific protocols in place for bullying. Review your district policies and know where to find them before an issue arises. Make sure that your students understand the school-wide consequences for bullying as well. When bullying occurs in your classroom, follow the policy and make sure that parents and guardians are aware.

Set a Protocol for Students to Report Bullying

Even with prevention measures in place, bullying may still occur in the classroom. When a student is bullied, he or she needs to know a safe way to reach out for help. At the beginning of the year, let students know how they can discreetly come to you to report bullying. Some ideas include handing you a note during class or requesting a student-teacher conference during lunch, recess, or special periods. Make sure to reiterate that students should report bullying as soon as possible, and encourage students to talk to you, even if they have witnessed another classmate being bullied.

Stay Tuned In

Teachers are constantly juggling an endless list of responsibilities. As such, when students are working collaboratively or independently, it can be tempting for a teacher to become consumed with catching up on tasks and neglect to pay attention to the working students. When cultivating a bully-free environment, a teacher can’t afford to tune out. Circulate the classroom so that students feel your presence. Listen to conversations, and interject if you hear they are becoming counterproductive.

Follow Up

After you have addressed bullying, be sure to follow up with parents and students. Take time to pull the victim aside and ask if the issue has improved. Call parents and let them know that you are keeping watch, and ask if the student has expressed any further concerns. Even if the bullying has subsided, following up shows that you take bullying seriously and strengthens your relationship with the student.

It is important to remember that even when bullying seems small, it can be a very traumatic experience for students. Students should learn respect and kindness from their educators. It is our job as the leader in the classroom to set a standard of tolerance and acceptance.

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