Bullying has a far-reaching impact on students. It affects their mental and emotional well-being, causing anxiety, depression, apathy, and changes in sleeping and eating. In this day, students would find it much more difficult to excel in school, to go to school even. The best way to deal with bullying is to stop it even before it creeps up on pupils. Here are some of the most effective strategies for that:
Train them to be more empathetic
Empathy is the ability to understand and share with feelings of fellow students. When your pupils are able to put themselves in the shoes of others, they are less likely to bully. Teaching empathy starts with modelling. When you exemplify trying to understand people, respecting them for who they are and the opinions stemming from that identity, your students will pick up on this virtue unconsciously. They will mirror this attitude and behaviour.
Another way you can train students to be more empathetic is with literature. When analysing literary pieces, let them explore the different ways the characters see their situation. This allows them to better understand the rationale of the characters’ decision. Ask them at the end of each session: ‘What would you do if you were in their shoes?’
Give opportunities for social interaction
A sense of community in the campus stops students from being bullies, as it addresses social-emotional issues at home, the very factors that breed intimidators at school. At the same time, the community feeling creates a safe space for students to report if there are incidents. This helps in the healing process of the targeted pupils.
Encourage students to interact with one another. Dedicate spaces in your campus where pupils can hang out and talk after school or during breaks. Consider adding outdoor shelters for schools, which can serve as reading zones or rest-after-play areas. These ‘hobby’ spaces would allow your students to connect and feel connected with their peers in school.
Inside your classrooms, prioritise active learning. Students must be able to freely express their insights with classmates during discussions. Put them in groups and let them work together in projects, so they can exercise resolving conflicts and adjusting to different personalities.
Be conscious of ‘gateway behaviours’
According to childhood development experts, bullying starts with small behaviours that often go unnoticed. Labelled as ‘gateway behaviours’, these include eye-rolling, ignoring or excluding, cruel laughing (or letting other peers laugh at a student), name-calling, spying, etc. These small behaviours are overlooked, because teachers often see it as harmless, especially when they only happen once or twice. Nonetheless, be on the lookout for such acts.
Eye-rolling and ignoring are often done when students are in conflict with other pupils. To avoid this, teach your students how to deal with disagreements in the proper way. Name-calling, on the other hand, is made in the spirit of ‘fun’. Remind then your students that fun is never fun when it is at the expense of others.
Again, bullying has a profound effect on pupils. So, stop it in its tracks before it even permeates your school culture. Don’t let your students be bullies and bullied.