I heard a story of a child who has been feeling unwell as an avoidance tactic for school. This child was being bullied. On the grand scale of bullying it would count as on the minor side, but it was significant to the child concerned which makes it significant.
This yet again reiterated my frustrations as a teacher when bullying occurs. I can address the bullying with the child (and sometimes that is enough – by exposing it to the light or separating a couple of individuals who just get nasty together – those are the easy ones), but often this is not enough to address the issue. That is the issue with bullying – it is generally not a one off thing, but an ongoing pattern. Patterns can be hard to change. And just leaving it for the teacher to fix does not work because the teacher is not always there. Oh, the teacher definately needs to know it is going on and needs to take steps to support students, but this isn’t always effective. Yes there are strategies that can be employed
- Restorative justice
- Teaching skills to deal with it
- Removal of the bully from the playground
- Peer support
- Teaching people to recognise unhealthy situations – or friends who aren’t friends
- Home-school connections
- Addressing it in the wider school context
- Developing student relationships and expectations to stand up for one another
- Helping kids learn to stand up for themselves and react less
But ultimately how do we stop it? A determined bully will find ways to continue. They themselves have learning they need to do. But how do we protect those who are being hurt in the process to stop it? How do we empower the victim?
In some ways physical violence is easier to deal with because there are marks. But what about words? What about those complex situations where the bully is subtle and jabs, jabs, jabs then gets upset when there is a response? What about when the bully knows how to play the game and hide the bullying?
Is there really anything that we can do or is it an uphill battle? In saying that it is not a battle that we can afford to stop fighting. It is a battle that we see played out not just in school, but continued through into adult life. New Zealand (in 2016) holds the silver medal for the highest statistics (worldwide) of workplace bullying. Click the link below to see an article on it. Therefore, simply dismissing bullying as ‘a part of life’, or as someone needing to ‘harden up’ because ‘life isn’t fair so you might as well get used to it now’ doesn’t work.
Despite a plethora of literature on bullying, it seems to be an ongoing problem (and not just over here in NZ either) and not one that is easily addressed. If you have some more ideas to add regarding this issue, please do.