I’m a teacher and children often come running to me to tell me that someone is bullying them. I’ve always found handling bullying to be an investigative process. I have to learn both sides of the story, find anyone who witnessed it and how long it’s been going on. As I work mostly with children from Kindy to grade 3, most incidents turn out not to be bullying but unkind incidences. Bullying is consistent harassment of another person.
What I always worry about, is the right words to say and whether I made a difference. I am currently a substitute teacher and I find that in most instances I am dealing with tattle-telling and small one off occurrences but I’m always suspicious about whether there is more going on. If there was more going on, I would do something of course.
I have seen bullying in action and I have been bullied as a child. In those two circumstances, I felt that sometimes, the bullying wasn’t dealt with properly and that’s why I want to learn how to be a champion for my students. I do want to be full time teacher one day and even if I remain a substitute teacher, bullying will always be one of my responsibilities. What I liked about this book was that it was practical, contained phrases that can be used and, scenarios and questions and covered the current issues with bullying. In this review, I’m going to share what I found most helpful or insightful about what I read.
The Definition of Bullying
What I found useful in reading this book was one part describing the differences between, rude, mean or bullying behaviour. The three factors are interrelated but teaching the children the definitions of these things is useful in discerning in how to deal with an unpleasant situation.
Rude- Something that was said or done that is unintentionally offensive to another person. For example, giving an honest opinion, laughing at someone’s mistake.
Mean- Deliberate words or actions to offend someone.
Bullying- Persistent harassment of another person.
(Whitson, 2014, p.4-5)
I think if I teach students these differences it will help class harmony and decrease some tattle-telling. Little children know the word bullying and sometimes they use it for every slight they experience. I would also teach them some problem solving skills and phrases they could use. I would also add the word accident to this mix. I work with young children from Kindy to grade 3 and sometimes it’s revealed that whatever happened to them was just an accident. For example, a child bumps into another child because they were not looking where they were going.
Helping the victim
Always believe the victim because it took them a lot of courage to talk to you. I read in the book that when a child finally tells an adult, it is because they have exhausted all their strategies to deal with it themselves. I think that was true in my case when I was a child.
When I was in fifth grade, I had to work with another child from a different class. He was not happy to be working with me and would always be aggressive and rude towards me. One of my friends encouraged me to tell their teacher and I did. I was so reluctant to do it that I stammered when I talked to the teacher. Fortunately, I had my friend with me and she helped to explain the situation because I made no sense. It was lucky she understood what I was saying and she helped deal with it. I never had any trouble with that kid again.
What I also found useful in the book was the idea of working with the victim to come up with strategies to overcome the bullying. I just normally go yell at some children to knock off their behaviour but I see that the other method is better. You need the victim to get their power back and that doesn’t happen if you do all their fighting for them. You still tell the bully that their behaviour is unacceptable though.
Strategies to help the victim could include coming up with some comebacks, playing with someone else, telling the bully how they feel, telling a teacher on playground duty, and playing somewhere else. Also, after the bullying has been dealt with, it’s not over yet. The teacher needs to make a few follow up to see if it’s really over.
We have good intentions but we should review our methods
We all have good intentions and sometimes the way we deal with bullying doesn’t work. The bullying becomes sneakier and the situation gets worse. So feedback is important. Children can be reluctant to talk about how they are progressing so observing behaviour, body language and talking with caregivers might help too.
Bystanders are powerful
I wish I had known the power of a bystander when I was a child. When someone watches bullying happening, they become part of the problem. When the bully has an audience, they think they have the approval of other people. I can understand why kids are reluctant to help other children. They might be worried that they will be the next target, they are not friends with that kid or that is a teacher’s responsibility to help or they could be friends with the bully. I can relate to that because those were the reasons why I didn’t help out when I was a child. I did feel sympathy for the victim but I also felt conflicted and helpless.
Fortunately, most bullying prevention programs do mention what bystanders can do to stop bullying. Children can be taught phrases and strategies to use, such as telling the bully to “knock it off” or say “that’s not cool” and supporting people who do intervene. Children can go off and tell an adult if they are not comfortable to involve themselves.
There were lots of other things covered in the book but this review would be too long. There is stuff on cyber-bullying, different types of bullying etc which I found useful as well. I feel better informed after reading this book and I will continue to educate myself on bullying throughout my teaching career. I think that conflict is part of human nature but bullying is not something should be tolerated.