Bullying: It’s not just a buzz word

It seems that today the new buzz word in education – believe it or not – is bullying. School bullying (be it cyber or face-to-face) is a trending topic in most schools.  I know some local schools in my district have initiated anti-bullying campaigns.  And just about every teacher and school guidance counselor squares off against bullying on a regular basis.

While it seems to be all the buzz…bullying has always been a very serious situation in the lives of almost every student.  With the rise in social media, cyber bullying is becoming rampant and only exacerbates the problem in schools.  Bullying is an every day problem.  In fact, I think many teachers would be shocked to hear how many of their students feel bullied while at school, and it would be students who you wouldn’t expect.

According to statistics gathered by USC and presented in this infographic, 1 out of 4 students are bullied every month and roughly 160,000 students miss school each day for fear of bullying.  Even more ming boggling, 1 out of 10 students drops of out school each year due to repetitive bullying.  And all of those stats only include the cases that are reported because about 81% of all bullying cases go unreported by students.

To be honest, I can’t say that I’m speaking from personal experience, but as a teacher, I have a heart for the victims of bullying.  I mean sure I was bullied once or twice but nothing to the extent of what I see in my school or hear about on the news.  As teachers, we have to try to do our best to end the cycle.

Earlier this morning, I was reading an article from the New York Times’ educational section and came across this piece written by Laura Klein called Bullying Changes a School, One Child at a Time.  The article details the experience of Rocky, a 7th grade student from the Senegal, whose name has been changed for privacy.

Rocky starts out as a straight A student who stands out among her peers and with her teachers, but eventually the bullying takes a toll on who she is.  Rocky begins to become defiant and disrespectful and ultimately, punches another student at which point she herself has become a bully.  Luckily, Rocky has Ms. Klein to help stop the bullying cycle and help her realize how important it is to stay true to yourself.  The entire article boils down to this great point.

“Those who are accused of bullying aren’t necessarily bad kids, or even truly mean a lot of the time. But an environment where bullying or harassment is happening is an environment that can transform anyone into a bully.

The true danger of bullying is the way that it changes kids. After weeks of feeling defensive and guarded, Rocky began to hide her sweet softness. Enough of this transformation in children, and the environment of a school is changed.”

Bullying is not just something that some kids do.  Bullying is an epidemic that if allowed will infest your school environment and bring down your school from the inside out.  Without proper intervention, there is not a good way for any bullying situation to end.   Bullying changes who students are.  It’s a cycle that feeds itself.

So how can you help…

1) Ask – Always ask students if they are okay when they appear to be “off” or down.  A lot of times you may get some generic answer, but other times you may be just who your student needs to talk to, which leads into…

2) Listen – It seems simple, but so many teachers (including myself) don’t.  Just listen.

3) Be visible – One of the easiest ways to decrease student aggression is to be visible especially during transitional times in your school like a class change.

4) Enforce – Enforce the rules and hold students accountable for breaking any rules your school or district has in place for bullying.

5) Get others involved – Schools are all about community so use your community (parents, guardians, local leaders) to help prevent bullying in school and outside of it.

Visit one of the following websites for more information…

http://www.stopbullying.gov/

Additional Resources on How You Can Help

http://www.education.com/topic/school-bullying-teasing/

***Image provided Sports Doing Some Good at http://sportsdoinggood.com/

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