Ten Great Anti Bullying Tips That You Can Use Right Away To Make a Difference In Your Classroom

    I guess everyone has reasons for doing or saying certain things and behaving in ways that are hurtful, disrespectful, irresponsible and just down right inappropriate. Understanding these reasons help us as teachers set reasonable expectations for our students. The problems begin when these reasons become excuses. When student behaviors such as disrespect and emotional cruelty are attributed to poor genetics, or environmental short comings are left uncorrected, by default we communicate to the student that we agree with the behavior. Disrespect is not a condition it is a learned behavior, and students must be held accountable for their actions. Bullying should never be justified or excused because of poor genetics or negative environmental influences. Respect can always be taught with the imposition of the right consequences. Always let your students know that BULLYING IS WRONG AND IT WILL NOT BE TOLERATED!
    I had to change my vocabulary. I used to say that kids needed to be obedient; now I use the word compliance. Teachers didn’t like it, thought it was too much like dog training. I mean we expect dogs to obey right, well mine doesn’t but that’s another story. So I watered it down, comply sounds better than obey. I compromised myself. I know they mean the same thing right? Wrong. What is the definition of obedience………….Anybody? Let me help you out. Obedience: Doing what you are told, when you are told to do it, with a good attitude. Our students can comply in many ways but still lack the correct attitude and timing. Ask one of your students’ to sit down and determine if he sat down on his terms or yours. How long did it take him/her to get into his seat? Oh, he complied but when and how is still the question. Compliance can also be very temporary. Obedience is very permanent. I don’t have to keep asking; wouldn’t it be nice to ask a kid to do something, and have him/her just do it? Bullies comply all the time, but in a very temporary way. Permanence comes when our demands are met when we make them and when the student has the right attitude. I left the NJ Turnpike one day and saw a sign that said, “You have left the NJ Turnpike Obey Local Speed Laws.” I guess obedience is not such a dirty word after all.
    Asking a student questions is a good thing. It gives you as the teacher an idea of the student’s knowledge base, and at the high school level what his/her views might be on different topics. So questions are good unless you are asking for something that has an obvious answer. Then you are not asking questions you are telling the student to do something and giving him/her a command. Often we can fall into the trap of asking some where, when, and why questions to students. Things like; “Why are you late? Where is your pencil? Or, when are you going to sit down, either don’t matter or require a consequence for being tardy, unprepared, or non-compliant. It can be as innocent as stating “We are going to do math now, okay.” When we should be saying, “Take out your math book and turn to page…” Bullies love to do what they want when they want to. So, for the obvious stop asking and start telling.
    Trying to explain to a child or even at times an adult the reason whys or why not’s that are related to certain behaviors can at times can be frustrating and with our own children can be frightening. Don’t drink and drive, don’t smoke; watch who you pick as a friend or who you date are all things that teachers and parents communicate to their students and their children. In school kids are always asking why we have to do something, or learn certain academic skills. Bullying behavior can have a lasting effect on those who experience social, emotional, or physical abuse at the hands of a bully. Why don’t kids and bullies in particular head the warning of adults and just listen and stop saying and doing things that are just down right cruel? The reason; many of our children today were never taught to obey so they don’t have a vision in terms of the long range consequence for what they do and often what they say, and many times just don’t care. Consequences I might add that could cost them as an adult. Remember all we are looking for is a kid to do what he is told, when he is told to do it. Three military men were walking across the huge flight deck of an aircraft carrier. Suddenly, a commanding officer yelled out to them, “Drop!” Two of the men immediately fell on the deck. The third man turned around to see what was happening and was instantly killed by an incoming airplane. All three men heard the same word; however, only two of them understood what they heard and obeyed the command. Recognizing and immediately obeying the voice of the commanding officer proved to be a matter of life and death for these men. Help your students understand that there does not have to be a reason right now why they have to just do what they are told. Hopefully the bully will change before his life is effected, or worse yet the life of someone else.
    My youngest daughter was leaving a friends house one day and I heard her say “Bye Barbara, Bye Lenny.” When she got in the car I asked her who are Barbara and Lenny? She replied that’s Kelly’s parents. My response was “so, why don’t you call them Mr. and Mrs. Jones?” (Name Change) She replied, “Oh dad they don’t care.” Well I did, and so I went into the house and asked the dad to please be sure that my daughter addresses him and his wife as Mr. and Mrs. The response from the dad was “Oh, it’s no big deal she can call us by our first name.” My answer “Okay, how about Mr. Lenny.” He agreed. Why was I even having this conversation? Because everyone believes that the ground is level. I hear teachers all the time when they speak with parents referring to themselves by their first name. “Hi, Mrs. Brown, this is Jim Burns, Johnny’s teacher.” Forget it. You are Mr., Mrs., or Ms. refer to yourself that way when speaking to parents, students, and even yes, your fellow teachers when in earshot of your students. Our students need to know that we are in charge and will be addressed with respect, so do the parents. Teaching is a noble profession. Don’t diminish your position by being addressed by a name other than Mr., Mrs., or Ms.
    Does this tip have anything to do with bullying? The answer might surprise you. Kids who have not been taught that they have a responsibility to comply with the rules of a family, a school, or society believe that they can say and do what they want. One of the highest forms of maturity is the ability to cooperate even though you might disagree. Bullies lack empathy and are never in tune with the expectations of others. Begin to hold kids accountable for non-compliance, and start to discipline for a poor attitude and insist on cooperation. Remember kids don’t always have to agree just cooperate.
    Hmm. Now it’s okay to disagree. Well kids are going to whether we like it or not. Giving your students a voice helps to reduce anger. The idea here is that attitude is everything. To often kids when they disagree will personalize the disagreement resulting in name calling or the berating of others. Often bullies will use their power to force their victim into submission. Teaching students the right way to disagree with each other builds confidence, boundaries, and maturity. It helps both the bully and the victim.
    Have you ever forced two students to shake hands after a disagreement? You know their heart just wasn’t in it. Don’t stop asking for that hand shake. It is symbolic of the inward attitude you as the teacher are trying to develop in those two students. It is very difficult for victims to forgive, but an angry victim may only seek revenge at a later time on his own. Bullies need to learn how to ask for forgiveness, victims need to accept it. We can be an example by asking for and receiving forgiveness ourselves.
    Character is truly far more important than achievement. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “To educate a person in the mind but not in morals is to educate a menace to society.” Teaching character is something that we all attempt to do, but because of lock-step lesson planning and curriculum time lines, we never seem to have the freedom to correctly work on this important topic in our classrooms. Sometimes there is more caught then taught. So, make the time to discuss situations that involve lying, stealing, cheating, bullying, bad mouthing, etc. Search for character education programs and lesson plans, and make the time so you can force it into your day or your week. Do your best, and remember, your main focus is respect and responsibility.
    We have all heard of the acronym KISS; keep it simple stupid. Sometimes we as educators can be bombarded by so many new programs and philosophies that we feel as if we are lost in the sauce and don’t know what to do. If you are taking classes at a college, you know what I mean. Every semester is another class with another approach to improving student performance or managing behavior. The classes are all great I am sure, but finding what works best can be a challenge. When Character Education programs became mandated about ten years ago teachers found themselves trying to teach a new character quality every week, which certainly was a great idea. One quality a week can be a bit much, and I question whether or not the students really learned the quality in this short period of time. In dealing with bullying, let’s keep it simple, and focus on two qualities. Stick with it day to day and week to week. Teach respect, and encourage responsibility. Every student will benefit ,and you will begin to take the necessary steps toward stopping the bullying problem in your school.

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Anti-bullying 101

Teach Respect, Encourage Responsibility and Stop Bullying.

~James Burns

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About James Burns

Jim Burns is a retired New Jersey School Administrator with almost forty years of experience in the area of anti-bullying. He is the writer and designer of The Bully Proof Classroom, a graduate course that is offered at The College of New Jersey and La Salle University in Pennsylvania in partnership with The Regional Training Center of Randolph NJ. He has been awarded the degree of Dr. of Humane Letters from Gratz College in Pennsylvania. He is an author, speaker, and anti bullying consultant. He can be reached at jameshburns55@gmail.com. He is available to schools and organizations as a speaker and consultant. his website is www.bullyproofclassroom.com
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