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Sunday, December 15, 2013

How to Bully Proof Your Campus

Whether it's on the playground, in the locker room, or discreetly right under your nose, bullying happens every moment of everyday in our schools.

Here are 5 things you can do to decrease the odds of it happening on your campus.

1) Know the players. Looks can be deceiving!

Bullies are sneaky to say the least. In fact, one of your beloved darlings who makes straight A's and gives you Starbucks gift cards for Christmas, may very well be picking on one of your not-so-beloved students. One of the best ways to spot a bully is to catch them off guard. The cafeteria lunch line or when students are in line at recess are breeding grounds for bullies to emerge. Who cuts in line (bully)? Who typically sits alone pretending to read (victim)? Who is picked last when choosing "teams?" Instigators are highly manipulative and sneaky!

Watch!  The triple dog dare! Scene from The Christmas Story

2) Get the whole story.

 Before jumping to conclusions, stop and meet with involved parties separately. This may need to happen in an administrator's office depending on the severity. Nonetheless, before picking up the phone to call home and basically ruining the student's entire holiday, listen to all parties involved before writing the student up. This isn't to say there shouldn't be consequences for saying an inappropriate word or fighting in the boys' locker room, but there may be more to the story. Warning: document, document, document! Having the student write down in his/her own words will protect yourself and your campus administration from future headaches.

3) Don't be an enabler.

Just because you need a smaller student to play the sheep in your Christmas pageant doesn't mean you use the smallest student. Why make the bully's job any easier? Students who are typically bullied are targets for a reason. Maybe they haven't hit a growth spurt and are small for their age. They may be super-intelligent and would rather talk about computer coding or fossils over computer games. Ask a student privately before assigning them to a task.

4) Be approachable. You may appear 15 feet tall to a young child  who is in first grade.
As goofy as it may sound, practice your facial expressions in the mirror.
Find a way to diminish scowls and creased foreheads in exchange for a less scary look. It is one thing to show disapproval, it is another thing to scar a small child for life! Perspective is everything!

5) Teach students to self-advocate!

There's a fine line between tattle-telling and self-advocating. Students who learn to stick up for themselves and express their needs are less likely to fall victim to bullies. When a student self-advocates they are empowering themselves. Whining and crying are weak ways to express needs and may look like tattle-telling. Our job as teachers is to teach them the difference.
Comfort and console, but then role play to model how to self-advocate. Teach students to say, "I need to be able to stand in line without others cutting in front of me," versus (student crying) "So-and-so cut in line!" It is our job to set students up for success by ensuring them that their voice matters. Yes, it's a full time job and may not be a part of our state standards, but in the long-run this may be the one skill that gets them through life in one piece!


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