As an educator, I make it my duty to ensure the comfort, success and overall satisfaction of all of my students. One cannot learn if they are worried about everything but the lesson. Thus, bullying was a very real concern for me. After all, I teach middle school, within a subject area that forces people out of their comfort zones and into the depths of thinking and speaking. With a 90% ESL population, reading and speaking are not easy tasks. It was my duty to make learned painless and that is what I did. I have never had a problem with bullying; and I am proud to say that my room is a Bully Free zone. Each of my students respects that creed.
First and foremost, the end to bullying in the classroom should begin on day one of your time together. Educators must foster a sense of routines and expectations for their students. For example, my students know that I expect a silent, straight line outside of my door in the mornings. We will wait until that line is straight and silent, and anyone who violates that basic expectations, serves detention. After making an example of one of two students, the message is clear. Mrs. Williams expects certain things, and will ensure that she gets them.
However, I do not go into a year and “lay down the law”. Rather, I talk with my students and agree on expectations, as a class. During day one, one of my procedures is to create a list of classroom norms with my students. This fosters ownership in their behaviors in our room. Students decide what I will request them to do. I do not present myself as overbearing. I present myself as a facilitator and partner in their educational experience.
Secondly, we model those expectations. I do not leave to chance, what students believe I expect. Instead, we openly discuss what each expectation looks like and what we should not see. Often times, this means that I or a group of students will act out classroom norms for everyone to agree or disagree upon. This year, we had someone act out a temper tantrum in the room. We decided, as a class, that this was inappropriate behavior for middle school and school in general. We then discussed and modeled (acted out) different levels and types of tantrums, until students understood that no tantrum would be accepted. Within this talk, were those people who yell out, “Shut up!” to the class. It was made clear, that yelling anything- unless the lesson required it- was unacceptable.
Thirdly, I explain and ensure to my students that we are a family in my room. This message is made clear to them through out the year. We discuss, early on, what happens in a family, when two people argue or do not get along well. Usually, the conversation details the family member’s talking to one another and getting over their issues. I then, explain to my students that we will practice this behavior in class. I make it clear that I will not tolerate any of my students hurting their families. I further inform students that I will check-up on them in other classes, so should they believe that they can “get away” with being a bully or problem to one of their classmates outside of my room; I nip the belief in the bud. Then, I follow through. Consistency is very important, when working with children. Still, actions speak louder than words; thus, I make it a point to sing happy birthday to students, on their birthdays, I know what most of my kid’s pet peeves are and I work to eliminate those things from happening, I listen to my students when they have bad days and I praise them when they do great things, both inside and outside of my room. I build lasting relationships with my kids. We really become a family.
Still, what would happen if a student violated a norm in my room? Well, that student would have to call mom or dad, instantly. I have a script for just about any behavior that could arise in a classroom. I simply inform the student to make their phone call, tell them which script- I keep all scripts by the phone- to read from, and they own their behavior and consequences. Each script has a designated consequence, which we agreed to and signed as a class, during our first few weeks together, and I do not take phone call in class. The script also informs parents that I am busy teaching but I will return their call at a later time, if they request to speak with me. Gladly, I have never had any issues.
The mere act of front- loading clear expectations through modeling, following through with fair and agreed upon consequences and fostering relationships, saves me a ton of student discipline referrals each year. In fact, I can count on my hand, how many students I have had to refer to the office in my teaching career. I simply do not have the worries that some classrooms have. So, bullying has never been issue for me. I do not feel that it will become an issue either. As an educator, you have to proactive, when it comes to eliminating bullying. Waiting until bullying surfaces, is almost always far too late to do something about the behaviors.