My first tip is to look out for signs. Bullies can be really sneaky but the victims do subtly reveal they're uncomfortable through their body language. If you spot a student isn't quite being themselves or you're sensing some general tension, you can try pulling a student to the side after the lesson and ask them if everything is OK or if they are happy where they are sitting.
Keep an eye out for your students outside of lessons too. The playground in particular can be a war zone and is where a lot of the bullying happens. I'll share a story that happened to me once. I had 3 girls (about 12 years old) in my classroom who were joined at the hip; they were always together! Then one day I saw these three girls talking in the playground but one of them looked really upset. I went up to them to see if everything was OK, but no one was keen on telling me what it was all about... I happened to be teaching these girls the same afternoon and they all sit next to each other in my class. Everything went as normal with no hiccups during the lesson. They all seemed to be getting on and the upset girl seemed fine too... I still wanted to speak to the her just to make sure though, and I'm so glad I did. After the lesson she revealed to me that these girls had been best friends for years and years but recently things had been turning sour and they were being really mean to her. Thank goodness I happened to spot that incident in the playground as this initiated what was to be a very important step for this girl, as I was the first person she had told. After a long chat about how she was feeling, what they were doing and what the next steps were, I assured her she would not have to sit next to them in my lesson any more, which she was delighted with! That was a very easy thing for me to do as a teacher, and I know it made a big impact in helping her have some space from these girls. I placed all 3 of them at opposite ends of the room and I made sure I sat her with some really sweet girls in the class. Long story short, she handled the situation like a champ and eventually made a new group of friends - I now see her hanging out with the sweet girls I put her next to in my class!!! That gives me so many goosebumps to know that I helped her make new friends just from that one action step! I love a happy ending!
Sometimes though, it can feel like there are lots of bullying scenarios happening in one class (especially if it's one group of students you teach every day and get to know very well). In cases like that, I like to do a whole class intervention! I know we don't want to sacrifice academic time, but sometimes we have to just hit pause and do what is right for the greater good of the class and their well-being. After all, who is going to be able to concentrate on the lesson when they're being bullied?
What I use is this PowerPoint and Printables pack on Bullying. It has everything you need to go from the start to the finish of bullying and you don't need to be a counselor to deliver this as this guides you through the discussions with ease!
• To identify what bullying is
• To analyze common situations and discuss which are considered bullying and why
• The reasons why people might bully others
• The impact bullying has on others
• Ways they can respond to bullies
• How to be assertive
• How to deal with bullying
• Support networks they can turn to for support
• A final pep-talk!
The PowerPoint text is editable (yay!) so you can modify the content to suit your students’ needs. The pack comes with a set of graphic organisers too which work as a helpful tool for students to record their thoughts in an engaging way as you go through the lessons. Plus, these printables are particularly handy for using on wall displays not only to decorate your room, but to serve as a constant reminder about what they learnt about bullying.
I've also included a set of discussion task cards for students to discuss possible scenarios they may come across: these can be printed off for each group of students, or they can be used in whole class discussion – it is up to you! I've found this has helped with whole class bonding as it gets them talking and sharing stories with each other.
When I last delivered this unit, I was shocked at how many of my students didn't know the definition of bullying, they didn't know what they could really do about it, they didn't know how to be assertive and they don't really talk about it much. This lesson really opened their eyes and having has some deep and meaningful conversations with them since; some are starting to be more assertive when being treated less than fondly by their peers. I am so super proud of them! I really hope this helps your students out too!
I believe if we take some time out to watch out for bullying and tension in our classroom and help educate our students on bullying and how to deal with it, then we will continue to see a significant improvement in the emotional well-being and assertiveness of our students!
What are some of the struggles you have with dealing with bullying in your classroom? Leave a comment below, I'd love to chat more!