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- Ask students about bullying. Survey students on a regular basis. Ask whether they’re being harassed, or if they’ve witnessed harassment. It should be easy for students to come to an adult and talk about harassment. 1) Build staff-student relationships. 2) Place suggestion boxes where students can provide input anonymously. 3) Administer school-wide surveys in which students can report confidentially on peers who bully or on the children whom they harass. Also remember that the key is to know what bullying accomplishes for a bully. Does he or she want to gain status? Does the bully use aggression to control others?
- Ask students about their relationships. It is a fact that bullying is a destructive, asymetric relationship. Learn who students associate with, who their friends are, who they dislike. Learn who are perceived by students to be popular and unpopular. Connect with students who appear friendless. Staff members’ knowledge of students’ relationships varies widely; they tend to underestimate the level of aggression among peers.
- Build democratic classroom and school climates. Identify student leaders who are able to encourage their peers to stand up against bullying. Determine whether the social norms of students are really effective against harassment. Train teachers to better understand and manage student social dynamics and better handle students’ aggression. Put in place clear and consistent consequences — this is a must. Master teachers should build relationships, trust, and a sense of community, as well as promoting academic success.
- Be an informed consumer of anti-bullying curriculums. There are many anti-bullying interventions, and lots of them are successful, but be aware of significant caveats. For example, some bullies would benefit from services beyond bullying reduction. Other programs might work well in Europe but not as well in the US. And most anti-bullying programs haven’t yet been rigorously evaluated. Inform yourself when investing in a curriculum. Investigate claims of success. Remember that your most valuable tool is your background knowledge — your deep understanding of your students’ relationships.
- Remember that bullying is also a problem of values. Implement an intellectually challenging character education or socio-emotional learning curriculum in your school. Students must learn how to achieve their goals by being assertive, not aggressive. Teach staff, students — even family members — how to resolve conflicts with civility.
sole source: this content was a sidebar in Philip C. Rodkin’s article in the September 2011 ASCD magazine Educational Leadership. Visit http://www.ascd.org
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