5 Messages Teachers Send When They Ignore Bullying

What your silence about bullying issues communicates to your students

upset teacher

School bullying impacts every classroom across the nation. And it is an issue that every teacher must learn to address in the classroom. Aside from impacting the academic success or your students, bullying also creates an unhealthy learning environment. This environment may be laden with stress, anxiety and fear. As a result, it is essential that teachers take steps to address school bullying.

Yet, there are many teachers who would prefer not to deal with bullying issues, especially those that occur among students at recess, on the school bus and even online.

But ignoring these occurrences of bullying or insisting it is someone else’s job, only creates more issues for you and your students. In fact, students who report bullying to a teacher only to have them turn a deaf ear to it, often report greater dissatisfaction in the learning environment and a lack of trust in the teacher.

When you fail to help foster a bully-free environment for your students, this communicates a number of negative messages. Here are the top five things you are inadvertently saying to your students when you do not take steps to address bullying.

“I am not a source of support.” When you fail to address bullying, or even acknowledge what a student is experiencing, they conclude that you are not trustworthy. You become someone they can no longer count on. And in the end this impacts the learning environment in your classroom. Even bystanders will begin to doubt that you are someone they can trust.

Remember, every student in your classroom is watching how you will handle a bullying situation. If you want your students to know they can trust you, be sure you are taking steps to address bullying. Also, be sure you are supporting victims of bullying.

“I do not have time for this.” When adults ignore bullying, kids often assume it is because they do not want to be bothered or that they are too busy with other things.

Be sure your students know that addressing bullying is a priority and that you are not too busy or too distracted to ensure that their learning environment is safe and free of harassment.

“I really do not care about this.” Another interpretation for a lack of action regarding bullying, is that you really do not care about bullying or the students impacted. Make sure this message is not being communicated to your students. Address bullying issues and communicate your concern. If the bullying occurs outside your classroom, such as on social media, still address it. Even if it is just a private conversation with the victim to let her know that if she needs to talk you are there.

“I accept this behavior as normal.” Edmond Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." This is especially true with bullying. When you fail to discipline bullies or intervene in some way in bullying situations, this communicates not only to victims but to bullies also, that you accept this behavior as normal. And once a bully sees that you are not going to do anything about his behavior and that it will work for him, he has not motivation to change. He will continue to target other students.

“I have no power or authority in my classroom.” Perhaps one of the most detrimental aspects of ignoring bullying, is the fact that it usurps your authority in the classroom. Your students lose respect for you. And bullies see you as weak and ineffective. They become bold in their actions and may even test bullying you. Be sure you take a strong stand against bullying anytime you witness it. And if you hear of your students bullying others outside your classroom, address it. Be sure bullying does not filter over into your learning environment. Have classroom discussions about bullying and establish consequences for inappropriate behavior.

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