Bullyproofing Every Day

During Bullying Prevention Month in October, I imagine that many of you planned, presented, or took part in assemblies or whole school meetings about bullying prevention. You may have created posters with your students, put on small plays, read aloud anti-bullying picture books, or engaged in other activities to raise student and adult awareness about how to maintain an atmosphere of kindness and inclusion in your classroom and school.

Now it’s time to continue that effort. Making sure your classroom and school environment is one where all children are safe, where all children are included, and where kind words prevail requires day-in, day-out attention. One month of bullying prevention is not enough. Assemblies, plays, or read-alouds are not enough. Effective bullying prevention is a daily effort that focuses on teaching children how to be inclusive and kind.

Many studies on bullying prevention have found that school and classroom climate is a key to preventing bullying. A bullyproofed classroom is one where each student is ready to work with all classmates, where students are invested in following classroom rules about kindness, and where the adults in the classroom notice small mean behaviors and stop them respectfully and efficiently.

We educators can teach children how to work respectfully with all classmates by teaching in ways that emphasize inclusion and that help children develop the skills they need to be successful at working with others. For instance:

  • Set the tone by making it an expectation that students will work with all of their classmates. Then create opportunities for children to do so by assigning learning groups.
  • Use Interactive Modeling to teach children how to work respectfully with learning partners.
  • Be a model of respectful behavior, toward colleagues and students. It’s vital for children to see that you hold yourself to the same high expectations you have for them.

We must also teach children how to include others outside of the classroom. Lunch and recess are parts of the school day when children may need additional support and guidance. For instance:

  • Assign seats and “lunch partners” in the cafeteria and rotate them frequently to show that inclusion is an expectation in the cafeteria.
  • Teach students what to talk about at lunch and how to be friendly to someone you don’t know very well.
  • Teach children how to invite someone to play at recess, especially in large group games—an essential skill for an inclusive playground.
  • Reflect with students before and after the mid-day break about how they did at including others at recess and lunch. This doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes, and it keeps the issue of inclusion front and center.

“If it’s mean, intervene.” Small, mean behaviors can easily escalate into out-and-out bullying. It’s a lot easier to stop a small, mean comment than it is to stop out-and-out bullying.

  • Observe student behavior, in and outside of the classroom. Watch for the rolled eyes, the body turned away from a student who is talking, or mean comments.
  • Stop these mean behaviors firmly and efficiently. Saying “Stop. We use respectful words in this classroom,” is sufficient.

When children feel safe and supported they are ready to learn. Creating this safe and inclusive climate in our classrooms is a daily effort. It’s an effort that can pay off with safe, joyful, and challenging classrooms where children thrive.

Read How to Bullyproof Your Classroom by Caltha Crowe. This award-winning book includes chapters on teaching children to work together, bullying prevention at lunch and recess, and recognizing and stopping gateway behaviors.

Caltha Crowe is a Responsive Classroom consulting teacher with nearly forty years of experience teaching elementary school students and twenty years of experience mentoring new teachers. She is the author of three books: Sammy and His Behavior Problems (NEFC 2010), Solving Thorny Behavior Problems (NEFC 2009), and How to Bullyproof Your Classroom.

Tags: Bullying

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