So, I’m sipping my coffee watching GMA, when a story comes on called “Celebrities ‘Stand with Keaton’ to Support Bullied Boy with words of Encouragement.” It is about a young boy’s emotional viral video with him telling his mom about being bullied at school. His mother had to pick him up early due to him being bullied. His emotional outpouring on camera just made me feel so heartbroken, but not helpless. He said kids pour milk on him and put ham down his clothes. They call him names and make fun of his nose. This is so disappointing. I know as teachers, we are in the forefront of preventing children from bullying. We can make a difference and protect these children while teaching others about kindness. Keaton is amazing! The end of the video, where he tells people to “stay strong” and thinks it will get better is absolutely inspiring! I stand with Keaton, and I hope you will too. Yesterday, I posted about bully principals. Today we are talking about strategies you can use to prevent bully behavior in school.
- Practice What You Preach Some of the same bully principals I wrote about yesterday, preach about how teachers should have a zero tolerance for bullying. Stopping bullying begins at the top! Principals should have a zero tolerance and lead by example. Some teachers are guilty of this also. I know of children who were bullied by a teacher. The teacher humiliated them in front of their peers, held their work up and called it “ugly” to the rest of the class. They even made fun of a student who stuttered while encouraging others to join in on the bullying. The students, along with a group of other children who felt bad for the students being bullied by the teacher, did the right thing by telling a teacher who told an administrator. That administrator did nothing to protect the children. The School Board was informed. They did NOTHING to prevent this situation from happening again. So, don’t just define your beliefs. Live them!
- Increase Adult Supervision Most of the time bullying happens when kids are alone and without supervision. If bullying is happening at lunch, as a teacher, make a point to walk around a couple times or actually eat lunch with some of the students. If you are aware of issues in the hallways, ask teachers to volunteer to monitor the hallways. Most teachers, when aware of a bully issue, are happy to assist. If it is on a bus, talk to the bus driver.
- Have School Wide Bully Prevention Workshops A lot of schools just put up an Anti-Bullying poster and never really talk about it with the students. Teachers, you should role-play bullying scenes with students. Give them strategies like when they SEE something, SAY something. Make sure as a teacher, you follow through with telling the proper people about any bully situations you discover. We want every child to feel safe at school. Even if you have a poor administration or district, you can talk to your staff and have them supervise areas.
- Teach KINDNESS Teach acts of kindness as part of your social studies curriculum. Reward students for kindness with hugs, stickers, a shout out on the announcements, etc.
- Work with parents who have children who are being bullied. Some teachers don’t want to get involved because sometimes it is a fine line between bullying and innocent teasing. The bottom line is if a child is feeling like they are not safe in school, there is a problem. Talk to the parents to come up with how students can know the difference. Tell the student you are there to keep them safe. Work with the students who are bullying or “teasing” to know the difference. Some kids don’t even know they are bullying until you bring it to their attention. This is why it is important to role-play.
- Talk About It Have regular conversations with a purpose. The goal can be each week to take 5 min. to discuss with your class about if they feel safe at school or on the bus. These discussions can lead to your ability to gain knowledge about bully situations before they get out of hand.
- Share Keaton’s story with your students. Show support by sharing his story with the hashtag #StandWithKeaton!
I hope some of these tips will help you help your students. Our number one priority is to provide a safe learning environment for our children. Watch the video here.
I’ve been hearing a lot lately about power greedy principals. The complaints range from humiliating teachers in front of peers to threatening a grade level change because a teacher has refused to participate in a particular professional activity outside of contract hours. Part of the problem may be because the districts are putting too much demand on principals, but I don’t accept that as an excuse for ignoring ethics. Neither should you! Teachers have a high pressure profession and when their principal is unsupportive, it adds to the stress of the job. I know many teachers who have sought professional help to deal with the stress of their principal/teacher relationship. Many are on anti-depressants to help them deal with the stress this relationship places on them. Medication dependency is not what we want for the people guiding our students. There are many decent and professional minded principals. I’ve worked for administrators who were fair and have inspired me to be a better teacher, made it easy to wake up each work day, and who embodied workplace integrity. So, what can you do if you aren’t that lucky?
Here are some strategies for dealing with a BULLY principal:
- Collect data just like you do for your students. If a principal tells you that you have to work the valentine’s dance or they will make you do cafeteria duty all year, write it down. If they are telling your peers that they should take you shopping because they don’t like the way you dress, write it down. Make sure you put the date and time on the data. If you get an email saying you have to stay late (past your contract time) to attend a meeting, save and print that email. Keep copies of everything in a collected file.
- Join your union, if you haven’t already. They can answer all of your questions about your contract. I’ve never been one for following the contract precisely when I choose to use after hours time for work. I work long hours and take work home with me regularly. What teacher doesn’t? But there is a big difference between you choosing to stay late and a dictatorial principal telling you that you have to do it.
- Talk to your principal. Give them a chance. Ask for a meeting, tell them what you disagree with and give them the opportunity to correct it. Maybe they are under their own pressure from above and are not aware of the effects of their actions.
- EMAIL is your best friend when facing major administrator/teacher issues. This will preserve everything in writing, preventing denial as a defense.
- If you have major problems, for example your principal has placed multiple behavior problems in your class with the intent of making your work more difficult, then you have to get direction from your union, school board, or superintendent. You are a professional. You know when unfair practices are taking place. It is unfair to you and stakeholders that a principal would encourage a classroom environment that is disruptive. I’m aware of many teachers getting physically harmed or threatened on a daily basis with no support from administration. This is unacceptable!
- Take your personal time when you know you need it. Yes, for teachers it is not easy to take time off because of the planning necessary for a substitute. Invest time and materials in a “Sub Tub” at the beginning of the year. There are plenty of premade sub plans on-line to help you with this if you can’t make it yourself. If you find that you are on edge because of your oppressive administration, take a mini vacation to collect you thoughts.
- Your health is number 1! If you are so stressed out over a bully principal that it is damaging your health, seek a new position or find a different profession. It is not worth losing your health when there is another position somewhere with a happy well-adjusted administrator who would love to have you on their team.
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