Advice for Teachers
Teachers play the role of being the primary caregivers in school.
Teachers have to look out for the children's wellbeing and protect them from harm.
Teachers also try to provide the most conducive environment for children to learn. A classroom that has issues with bullies tend to have a negative atmosphere that affects learning.
We believe that teachers in Singapore do try their best to stop bullying in schools.
However, some challenges that teachers face are the identification of bullies and intervention methods.
There are 2 "types" of bullies.
The first type of bullies are the "problem kids". These bullies tend to operate on their own, and tend to be isolated from the rest of the class. It is easy for teachers to pick these bullies out as they are more prominent.
The second type of bullies are the "good students". This type of bullying is more prevalent than the first type. Bullying by these students tend to happen between friends in group or a clique setting. Bullying may be more subtle (e.g. name calling, teasing), and they may end up bullying each other.
As a group, they may bully others through more subtle manners, such as ostracism or gossiping. It is much harder for teachers to pick these bullies out as they do not generally present themselves to be a problem to the class.
The detection of the second type of bullies is more possible when victims share their experience to someone. To facilitate greater disclosure by victims, teachers should adopt a two-pronged approach of creating a classroom environment that discourages bullying and demonstrating care for his/her students.
In setting an expectation that he/she does not tolerate bullying in a classroom, it promotes an anti-bullying attitude. This expectation should be repeated on a regular basis. This promotes an anti-bullying atmosphere that students can use as a reference on what is condoned in class. Teachers should also encourage students to speak up when they are being bullied, and mete out appropriate punishments when bullying occurs.
Students are also more willing to share with teachers that they are being bullied when they feel that the teacher cares for them, and can do something to help them. Thus it is important to be available for the children and to lend them a listening ear, and to follow-through on prior expectations that the teacher has set for the class.
After identifying the bullies, teachers have to figure out how to intervene.
A traditional mean of intervention is through disciplinary action and an apology.
Some cases, however, will not be effectively resolved through disciplinary action.
In many cases, a forced apology from the bully may not stop the bullying.
In fact, it may make things worse as the bully may have resentful feelings towards the victim over being punished.
Some cases may also be complicated. For example, students in a group may take turns to be bullies and victims. In these cases, does it make sense to punish everyone in the group, or is there another way to resolve the situation.
Such cases may require the teacher to mediate between the students. If the teacher can get the cooperation of the bully to help improve the class situation for the victim, it will reduce the frequency and severity of bullying in a classroom.
There are specific methods of intervention which require proper training and instruction to ensure that the method is applied properly. The key thrust of the methods is to enlist the cooperation of the bully such that they are willing and are taking concrete steps to help stop the bullying.
Teachers are tasked with many responsibilities and with ensuring the children under them receive a good education. If you are faced with handling a bullying situation, and you need help or support, feel free to reach us via our e-Consultation.