What can teachers do to help prevent bullying?
SCENARIO: You are working on a family tree project with your students. During one of your classes, you see that some students are passing around a drawing of Student 1’s family whose parents are a same-sex couple. Student 2 is a Crown Ward. You see her sink a little lower in her chair as the activity proceeds.
You’ve recognized that this is bullying and that the situation is serious. You’ve succeeded in interrupting the incident.
You’ve skirted an important learning opportunity; you’ve “avoided” the problem of discrimination rather than resolving it.
It is highly likely that the underlying problem will persist in a subtle way. The most likely future scenario is that the situation will erupt again at some point when you are not present and a witness.
2You interrupt the incident, and name the bullying. You have a talk with the class telling them why this is not acceptable. The students involved in the episode are given detentions and extra homework.
You are sending students a clear message that this kind of behaviour is not acceptable. Students will realize that their teacher takes bullying seriously.
If you adopt a punitive approach, you may miss the chance for a serious exchange, with all the students in your class, about family, social diversity, and discriminatory beliefs about differences. Consequently, it is unlikely that you will succeed in fostering attitudes that ensure equity and inclusion.
It is important to meet separately with each of the students who are involved. For those students who initiated or supported the bullying, you can use this opportunity to encourage them to reflect and to change their behaviour by eliciting their participation in finding strategies to repair the damage they caused and to prevent other similar situations. When you meet with Students 1 and 2, you can help them learn skills and strategies enabling them to respond effectively in such situations.
3You prevent the incident by articulating yours and the school’s commitment to respecting diversity and including everyone before initiating the activity.
The activity you had initiated carries the risk of provoking discriminatory behaviours aimed at families that are not considered “normal”. By taking proactive steps to attenuate this risk before implementing the activity, you can avoid antisocial behaviour that targets some students.
You’re sending an important and coherent message about acceptance and inclusion to all students.
The way you raise this subject can either open up or shut down a discussion. It is important to present it with a less authoritarian, though more effective approach, by sending messages that foster inclusion (see (voir le module 10).
✓Explanation of the recommended response.
Recommended response and explanation:The third answer is the recommended response. Establishing clear values and guidelines as the basis for all classroom activities contributes to developing a culture that welcomes diversity and respects differences. Ideally, all students would have clarity about the values embedded in their classroom (and school) culture from the outset. Such measures will reduce but not eliminate bullying. Therefore, interventions such as that described in answer 2 are also important, though punishing students does not lead to dialogue and learning. Answer 1 only serves to avoid the issue so that students do not have the opportunity to learn from the incident.
Note: For information about effective intervention with all parties involved in a bullying situation, see Module 7. For information about whole school involvement in bullying prevention through the development of a school culture based on compassion and respect for differences, see Module 8.