Written by Kayla Miskimon, Stone Bogart, and Dr. Lyndsay Jenkins
In order for teachers to put a stop to bullying, they must first recognize bullying in its many forms. The most common types of bullying to look out for are physical bullying, verbal bullying, cyberbullying, and social bullying.
Physical bullying involves the use of physical force. This is probably the easiest type of bullying to spot, and includes acts such as punching, tripping, and spitting on a victim. Verbal bullying is when a student says or writes something to another student with the intent to cause harm. This may take the form of name calling, taunting, or threatening another student. Rejection occurs when a group deliberately isolates, ignores or excludes an individual student. Lastly, cyberbullying may be a bit harder to spot because the harassment occurs through the use of technology (e.g. email, texting, social media). Unfortunately, this also means that the perpetrator can be anonymous, and therefore less likely to face any consequences.
Know the Difference Between Bullying and Normal Peer Conflict
Now it is important for teachers to differentiate bullying from normal peer conflict. Students are not always going to get along with one another, and this is not necessarily a bad thing, as conflict offers opportunities for youth to practice conflict resolution and appropriate social skills. We define bullying as repeated, intentional aggressive acts perpetrated by someone who has more power over the victim. On the other hand, normal peer conflict can be distinguished from bullying in that it:
- involves peers who are friends or of equal power
- only happens occasionally
- is accidental
- is typically not serious
- involves mutual emotional reactions from both parties
- and involves remorse and effort to resolve the issue
However, more serious forms of peer conflict can easily cause physical or emotional harm to youth. In those cases, teachers should intervene accordingly.
Be a good model of appropriate intervention
Teachers are role models for students, and intervening during bullying episodes is no exception. When students witness bullying, they may think about how their teacher responds to guide their response. This makes it even more important for teachers and school personnel to respond appropriately to bullying. You help teach students when the “line has been crossed” and how to intervene. Since student learn from their teachers on how to intervene when bullying occurs, it is important for teachers to respond appropriately.
So how can teachers respond to bullying? First, you want to intervene immediately when you notice bullying. This may include stopping the bullying episode yourself by separating the parties involved or getting another professional if you are uncomfortable stopping the episode, for example, in the case of physical bullying. Additionally, you want to validate the student’s feelings, both bully and victim, to help prevent future bullying episodes. Do not dismiss their feelings by saying something similar to “it’s just kids being kids” or “boys will be boys.” Listen to the students, and do your best to create a solution that benefits and respects all parties involved. By immediately responding and ending the bullying episode, you will be showing other students how they can help to end bullying.
It is important for teachers to know their school’s policy for handling bullying, both when the teachers observe the bullying directly, or are told about bullying by students or parents. We recommend that the teacher begin documenting reports of bullying if it begins to occur frequently. Getting the parents involved early in the process can be helpful to all involved.