When you hear the fact that about 20% of students report bullying, and you take into consideration all those who get bullied but don’t report it, you can’t help but ask yourself what you can do as an educator to prevent that. Moreover, the students doing the bullying often tend to carry those negative patterns into their adulthood. Better than ignoring the situation, let’s look at some of the ways educators can prevent bullying in schools.
Teach your students about kindness and empathy
Social-emotional learning is extremely important from an early age. Doing activities that boost students’ empathy results in less violence, as they are more likely to look at the situation from different points of view and understand how a certain action may be harmful to the other person. Group exercises in which your students practice conflict resolution or simply talk about their differences and opposing opinions makes it easier for them to put themselves in other people’s shoes.
Create a connection between the students
Having a unified classroom will result in students being freer to speak up, protect each other from bullying and hold each other accountable. Fostering this sense of connection and community among the students has the potential to reduce any future bullying by more than 50%. That way, a classroom can be a safe place for all students, and not a place they hate or fear.
Know the signals of bullying
If you can recognize any signals of bullying, you will have more opportunity to stop it before it comes to a conflict, or before it becomes an often-repeated action. Some of these ‘gateway behaviors’ include eye-rolling, back turning, laughing at or mocking someone, excluding certain students, and similar small actions. These behaviors don’t necessarily mean that someone is a bully; however, it is useful to know them and find the patterns within your classroom.
Art is often used in classrooms for different activities, but not everybody knows that it is a helpful tool in preventing bullying. All different sorts of art, especially something that students can relate to, help them understand how detrimental bullying is, which goes hand in hand with activities that boost empathy and kindness. You can use simple exercises such as class discussions about a particular book or a movie that features bullying and try to spark conversation between the students. Another great activity is a simulation of different situations, including bullying, where your students are supposed to act and then talk about their opinions and feelings.
Break the barriers between closed groups
Students tend to form groups, so you will usually see students who are bullies being one closed-off group, and the ones being bullied, another. This only supports the division of your students, so whenever you can, try to break up those groups and mix the students so that they will have to work with one another and not against. You can do this for many different activities, but try to think of an award for the best group so that the students actually feel motivated to cooperate.