What You Need to Know About Bullying October 13 2010

"What are teachers doing to help prevent bullying?"

You'll find the framework here for a journal writing activity to help document exactly how you have helped prevent bullying in your classroom. You can differentiate this journal activity, depending on your students' needs and the law in your state.

We know that when our students feel safe, understood and well-cared for they are able to learn most effectively. We also know that our students bring what they learn at home into the classroom. If home is not a healthy place, we need to teach appropriate behavior, which is a delicate, crucial and necessary task... for the sake of peace and humanity.

Know the Anti-Bullying Law in Your State

As well as developing anti-bullying curriculum, it's important to know the anti-bullying law in your state. Many states already have anti-bullying laws. This anti-bullying legislation is typically mandated without funding. Searching for "anti-bullying laws by state" in your search browser, you can find the law in your state. Administration at your school may have printed material explaining exactly how bullying is addressed.

Journal Entries & Teacher Talk Designed to Prevent Bullying


1. The "Students' Journal Entry" can be written on the board or overhead, and students can journal about the topics each day. When you read the journals later in the day, you can then design your next lesson. Keeping the journals confidential, unless there is a threat of harm to the child or someone else is important.

2. The "Teacher Talk" is intended to generate ideas for the teacher to sort through while developing the lessons, and not to be read word-for-word aloud to the students. Feel free to take from "teacher talk" (below) what you wish and repeat it, if you find it appropriate.

1. Look in the Mirror

Students' Journal Entry - What do I see in the mirror? Why have I put down other people? How can I better deal with stress?

Teacher Talk

Teachers, we must be honest with ourselves and teach our students to do the same.  Do we find ourselves being overly critical and hard on our students (or  even children at home)? After all, that’s what bullies do. We must ask ourselves why we do this. Journal about it and make a commitment to get help.  Getting counseling, being positive and caring can help stop a cycle of pain that won’t be forgotten in our lifetime. (Just being honest here. Most teachers arn't bullies, but most of us have meet a fellow teacher who is.) Taking better care of ourselves needs to become a priority (eating right, exercise and clearing our minds of stress). If we are not at a school that allows us to do this, for the sake of our own health, it's better to leave. After all, teachers have also been the victim of bullying. If you're in a place where this is happening and you aren't getting the help you need, move on.

2. Consistent Classroom Rules Keep Students Safe

Students' Journal Entry - How would I feel if all our classroom rules were broken today? Why? How do I feel when everyone follows the classroom rules? Why?

Teacher Talk

On the very first day of school establish and enforce your classroom rules. Stick by the classroom rules , so students feel safe. When students help create classroom rules they feel a sense of ownership. How do the classroom rules prevent bullying behaviors?

3. Pay Attention

Students' Journal Entry - What does bullying look like (body language and words)? When did I feel left out? What did I do about it? Who helped me?

Teacher Talk

Pay attention to subtle body language . Do you notice a group purposely leaving a student out of a circle? Do you notice whispering and glares? Do you feel the negative energy being thrown around? Pay attention to the clues and teach your students to recognize these clues. Share what the clues are with your students.

Bullying Clues:

  • gossiping
  • dirty looks
  • "accidentally" hurting someone
  • hurting someone on purpose
  • leaving someone out of a circle
  • ignoring a person when they speak

The list can go on and on. Listen to your gut instincts and pay attention to body language and conversations. Children may make strange sounds and body gestures to tease other children. This is not acceptable behavior and will not be tolerated. The students need to know this and have it clearly spoken to them.

4. Speak in Defense, Use Action and Model Caring

Students' Journal Entry - How can you defend yourself or someone else when you see bullying? Write about a time when you helped someone who was being bullied, or when you were helped. Do you know anyone who needs help?

Teacher Talk

When you notice girls gossiping and purposely leaving a student out of a circle, don't ignore it. Say something about it. It is then crucial to take action steps, and don't stop until you see a change in body language and words. If we acknowledge, but not demand and expect a change , we are actually accepting it. This causes more damage.

Depending upon previous occurrences and the situation, we need to gauge what we say to make it appropriate for the offense. It may be appropriate to say, “We are leaders with good hearts in this classroom, and I know you have a good heart. Truly popular people are kind to everyone, even if they have differences. How can we be kind to each other right now?”  

The actions step would be for the students to open the circle and be kind to the girl. If there is still negative body language (rolling eyes, noses in the air), pull the culprit aside and having a direct conversation about why they think that this rude behavior is acceptable. In many instances, I've seen teachers quickly address it and then go on teaching the lesson. The students may open the circle and then glare at the girl or ignore her. Don't allow it. As soon as you see another offense (and they'll try to do it behind you back), address it immediately.  After we call the student on the bullying behavior, we show the students how to include the other student, and we include the student who did the bullying.  As the teacher walks over to the circle at least one girl may be inclined to open up a space for the student.  Include the student with a smile and the others will follow suite. You can do this during sports, discussions, games or other classroom activities. If there is constant bullying going on a student may need to meet with the school counselor for an individual meeting. Maybe they need to vent about circumstances at home and they are using bullying as a way to vent off steam. Talk with the school counselor about it and the counselor can help the child develop skills to better manage stress, rather than bullying.

6. Speak Up and Smile When You See Kindness

Students' Journal Entry - How can I be kind to people today?

Teacher Talk

When you see students who model kindness smile at them, showing you see their kind behavior, and if appropriate speak up. Teach them all how to be leaders with a heart of gold. Looking our students in the eyes, saying their names with a smile and helping them feel valued and cared for makes them feel safe and understood. It will then be easier for them to focus on their studies.

7. Explain Self-Esteem

Students' Journal Entry - What is self-esteem? How do I feel about myself?

Teacher Talk

Explain that bullies really feel bad about themselves and that’s why they pick on others.  Even a “popular” bully may not have healthy self-esteem, so they become a bully. As a visual, point your index finger and show that three fingers are pointed back to ourselves when we criticize and put down others. 

8. Honesty

How are you honest with yourself about bullying? What can you do to take care of yourself, rather than letting off steam by bullying someone?

Teacher Talk

Ask students to be honest with themselves. Why do they feel that they need to put other people down, exclude peers or be cruel? Are they letting off steam? Trying to de-stress because they are upset that their parents were arguing, or they feel self conscious themselves. Talk about this openly. Talk about healthy ways to de-stress, without hurting other people. This can be different for everyone. Some enjoy art, jogging, hiking, music, writing or cycling.

9. The Truly Popular

Students' Journal Entry - What is true popularity? What is superficial popularity? How do you see yourself?

Teacher Talk

Explain what “true” popularity is and what“superficial” popularity is.  Truly popular people are kind to everyone and people like the person because he has good character and a kind heart. Superficial popularity is all about only hanging around certain groups of friends, wearing certain types of clothes and being involved in the latest and greatest activities. Explain that you are all going to be real to each other, and you are going to call it on someone if they are showing superficial behaviors, such as leading a group of people to gossip, exclude or  hurt someone else.

10. Respect and Helping Each Other Feel Safe

Students' Journal Entry - What is respect? Why is it important for me to respect myself and others? Where do we first learn about respect from?  Who would you tell if you did not feel respected or safe? Why?

Teacher Talk

Explain that we often treat ourselves the way our parents treat us. Therefore, we tend to treat our peers the way we were treated. Ask the students if they can think of a person they do not fear, but truly respect because they trust and value the person's character and actions. Listen and share answers. Discuss examples of "fake" respect. If your parent hit you, would you respect him/her? No. Not really, you just wouldn’t want to get hit. You might act respectful, but inside you would know that an injustice had occurred because you were hit and hitting is wrong. You might even be angry with them for hitting you and want to hit other people.  If you had a teacher who told you not to bully other students, but actually picked on students herself, would you respect her? No, of course not. That is "fake" respect. You act nice to the person, but you don't trust them. At school and in life, we don’t hit people with words or actions. We treat people the way we want to be treated. You are safe at school and if I see or hear that you are not safe, I will do all I can to protect you. But it is your responsibility to tell me if you or a friend need help and I don’t see. I am here to help you feel safe and have fun learning.

More Anti-Bullying and Conflict Resolution Teaching Resources