Bullying has become a very hot topic. 1 in 3 students in the United States reports that they have been bullied at school.
This is very alarming as a teacher of 30 students. This means that at least 10 of my students have felt the impact of bullying. According to the Center for Disease Control in 2015, students who experience bullying are at increased risk for poor school adjustment, sleep difficulties, anxiety, and depression. For me as a teacher, this means that I have a third of my students entering class potentially struggling with social or emotional issues that could hinder their academics.
In order to help combat this growing issue, my school purchased the Second Step curriculum. One part of that curriculum deals with bullying. I have always struggled with how to deal with a student who comes to me disclosing a situation involving bullying and I’ve come to appreciate the Four-A Response process from Second Step. I think it is something that every teacher can do when a student comes to them with an issue;. it is easy for me to remember the steps and to act.
Affirm the student’s feelings
First, make sure the student feels heard, that you care, and that you will help them deal with this issue. This is super important. Only 20-30% of students bullied will actually report it to their teacher. For many students, it is very scary to approach a teacher and share their experiences. The last thing we want is for the student to finally feel brave enough to talk about the problem and then for them to feel the teacher doesn’t care. This could cause them to not report future cases.
- You were right to talk to an adult.
- I’m glad you asked for help with this.
Use the 5 w’s. What is going on? Where is it going? Who is involved? When is it occuring? And sometimes if appropriate, Why do you think this is occuring?
Some things to say:
- Tell me more about what happened?
- Has this happened before?
- Was anyone else aware of what was happening?
Assess the student’s safety
After questioning the student, use the information you gleaned and figure out if the student is safe at the moment or if you feel they are in immediate danger. Determine what the student needs right now in order to be and remain safe. Obviously, depending on the assessment, you will act differently in the next step.
Now that you have information and have assessed the student’s safety, you need to act. At my school, that would be going to my administration and letting them take over. Make sure you know what your school’s procedures are. A very key piece is to let the student now the next step. Make sure they understand that just because you are handing it off to someone else, that it is being dealt with, and that you are still a caring adult to whom they can come to in the future as well. Give them the reassurance they need to know the problem will be resolved.
From the beginning of the year, I strive really hard to make sure I have an open relationship with my students and that they know they can come to me with anything. If I don’t set that groundwork early in the year, many students won’t feel comfortable coming to you if a bullying incident does occur.
In my previous blog post on Relational Aggression, I talk about some of the ways I work on building a classroom community that creates a safe environment for all students. What are ways you create a safe environment in your classroom?