The initial question from the interview asked whether the teacher could identify with bullying. I believe this to be an essential component for successfully dealing with bullying in an educational situation. This personal perspective aligns with studies that reveal “greater teacher empathy was associated with an increased likelihood of identifying scenarios as bullying, an increased likelihood of intervention, and greater perceived seriousness of scenarios” (Holt & Keyes, 2004, p. 124). Empathy may be the single key that makes all the difference in reducing incidents of bullying in school.
If not empathy, then the key would definitely tie in somehow with communication. Communication of bullying and bullying tactics without empathy seems ferociously powerless to stop the trend, however, whereas communication with empathy presents the only conceivable solution to ending what at times appear to be an epidemic throughout America’s schools. As one author brilliantly illuminates the concept: “communication…helps people to honor their own feelings and needs as well as those of others, to create respect and empathy in their interactions, and to get what they need without hurting one another” (Klein, 2012, p. 217).
The value of communication even without empathy should not be entirely dismissed, however. At least one study has indicated that perhaps the single most effective means of limiting the effects of bullying is making sure that awareness of such events with a specific focus upon those student most at risk and those student most likely to put those students at risk becomes a school-wide endeavor. Every single adult who works within a school from the faculty to the cafeteria workers to volunteers to the janitorial staff and beyond are given the power to communicate with those responsible for taking action whenever they witness bullying .(Limber, 2004, p. 359).
Which is in no way meant or intended to suggest that communication should only exist between the adults and not the students involved in the actual bullying. Once again, this takes us into the realm of empathy, which assuredly needs to be created between not just the teacher and the bullied, but the bullies and their victims. Teachers seem to instantly recognize that there is much going on among bullies that make them victims as well. Perhaps not as much a victim—certainly in the same way that the bullied at school is a victim—as the kid who is being intimidated, but a victim whose bully is even more invisible. What my interview revealed coincides almost perfectly with a study asserting that “Adolescent bullies were found to respond to an individualistic approach to intervention, with a greater focus on developing empathy and support for victims” (Aldridge, 2011).
I would like to extend and expand that latter portion of the statement. From what I gathered both by speaking to teachers and reading the literature, the focus on developing empathy and support victims should open up to include the bully himself. A bully is not created in a vacuum, after all. Only that small fractional percentage of students effectively described as sociopaths or psychopaths become sinister characters who view the school hallways and playgrounds as great big fields holding their victims captive for them. Most bullies, it would seem, become bullies through almost what might be called “monkey-see, monkey-do.”
For this reason, I must agree with the interviewee that a program such a Bully Busters—despite the unfortunately misguided pun that gives it its name—should likely be implemented as an essential component in any agenda that seeks to reduce the incidence of bullying in any academic setting. As one study concludes, the “purpose of the support groups is to share ideas of best classroom management and bullying prevention practices, to develop creative solutions to problems that individual teachers may face or that they face as a group, and to provide support and encouragement to solve problems. (Horne, Orpinas, Newman-Carlson, & Bartolomucci, 2004, p. 324). As many of the folks in Washington, DC could learn: you cannot hope to solve any problem until you understand it.
Understanding the motivation behind bullying is key, if perhaps the most difficult part of this process. The reality is that “chronic harassment by peers is associated with serious adjustment problems, including depression, anxiety, emotional disregulation, social withdrawal, low self-esteem, loneliness, suicidal tendencies, dislike and avoidance of school, poor academic performance, rejection by mainstream peers, and a lack of friends” (Perry, Hodges, & Egan, 2001, p. 69). Implementation of such understanding is probably the really difficult part here, especially in non-faith-based atmosphere that wants to demonize the sinner without apprehending the sin.
I think such apprehension that there are really two victims at play in any incident of one student bullying another is the giant obstruction in the road that keeps progress from being achieved. I am in complete agreement with the view that “In a society that struggles with moral values, few would question the value of schools that speak the biblical message….opting for the protection of life at all stages, [italics mine] which includes…the wrongness of bullying” (Heft, 2011, p. 211).
That is to say I agree that bullying is wrong…even when it is done by the person who created the bully at the blackboard.
As a teacher can you identify with bullying?
Bullying occurs in a number of different forms and the ability to recognize bullying that doesn’t even seem as though it is bullying is an essential asset.
Who would you notify first if bullying continues in your class?
Grade level department head.
Can you as the teacher set up a meeting with the child who is doing the bullying parents and get them involved?
Yes. It is part of the teacher’s responsibility to contact parents whenever discipline problems get to the level that a conference is deemed necessary.
How do you as a teacher stop bullying in your class?
The first step would be to privately and separately meet with both the bully and the bullied to try to reach a better understanding of the events because communication overrides everything. “communication…helps people to honor their own feelings and needs as well as those of others, to create respect and empathy in their interactions, and to get what they need without hurting one another” (Klein, 2012, p. 217)
After the bullying has stopped how can you prevent it from happening again?
The most effective means of stopping school bullying is to transform it into a school-wide awareness situation. Only when the entire school (faculty, cafeteria workers, administration, etc.) is made aware of the particularities of the bullying can prevention become a reality. (Limber, 2004, p. 359)
How can you help a child who is being bullied in the hallways, usually when they are changing classes?
Rather than merely becoming an observer who is noticed and whom students are made to be aware of as the site of authority, I would prefer to actively engage any student I witness engaging in bully tactics.
As a teacher, how can you make other teacher aware of bullies?
The Bully Busters program should be implemented in schools—even those above the elementary grade level—as an effective means of dealing with bullies. This program is especially useful for teacher awareness.
As a teacher, how often do you teach about bullying?
Not nearly as much I should, but probably as much as possible when trying to fit into an assessment-based curriculum.
As a teacher, on a scale of one to five how would you rate bullying in your school?
Probably a 3 which means it is more likely above a 4.
As a teacher, would you explain to your students that it is good to talk about bullying with their teacher?
Of course. Nearly every subject should be open for discussion with the teacher.
As a teacher, what are the consequences your school have in place for bullying?
Discipline ranges from a warning to detention to suspension.
Do you have a student who has been bullied? If so explain.
Yes. I think every teacher must answer this question in the affirmative. So far, nothing so horrific as a physical assault and, indeed, the bullying thus far has been relegated more to psychological intimidation.
Why do you think some students bully their classmates?
This is a fantastic question because many teachers—not to mention the bullies and their victims themselves—are often at a loss to fully understand the motivation behind such harassments. And there are plentiful motivations, believe me.
Have you witnessed one of your students or another student being bullied?
Yes. As referenced, the bullying has been more in the nature of psychological intimidation than actual physical confrontation.
Do you think cyber bullying is worse than classroom bullying?
Not worse and certainly not less inoffensive. Cyber bullying is every bit as detrimental to the delicate young psyche of a schoolchild as physical bullying.
- Aldridge, J. (2011). What Every Teacher Should Know about Bullying. Childhood Education, 87(4), 304.
- Heft, J. L. (2011). Catholic High Schools: Facing the New Realities. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Horne, A. M., Orpinas, P., Newman-Carlson, D., & Bartolomucci, C. L. (2004). 15: Elementary School BullyBusters Program- Understanding Why Children Bully and What to Do about It. In D. L. Espelage & S. M. Swearer (Eds.), Bullying in American Schools: A Social-Ecological Perspective on Prevention and Intervention (pp. 297-324). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
- Klein, J. (2012). The Bully Society: School Shootings and the Crisis of Bullying in America’s Schools. New York: New York University Press.
- Perry, D. G., Hodges, E. V., & Egan, S. K. (2001). 3: Determinants of Chronic Victimization by Peers: A Review and a New Model of Family Influence. In J. Juvonen & S. Graham (Eds.), Peer Harassment in School: The Plight of the Vulnerable and Victimized (pp. 69-100). New York: Guilford Press.