Understanding the Impact of Bullying
As adults, we recognise the severity and reality of bullying and understand that it can be responsible for limiting and ultimately ending life. As adults, however uncomfortable conversations can be, we manage them, process them and understand their impact.
However, as adults that are responsible for shaping the young minds of our future, it is much harder to think about how we share the impact of bullying with the children and young people we serve. Inherently, it feels wrong to discuss the realities of suicide with very young people yet, we know it is essential to share the impact bullying behaviour can have.
So, what are our top tips for talking about bullying with others:
1. Use Imagination: For children and young people, the use of imagination is incredibly powerful and in a classroom setting, you can use the notion of using imagination to story tell indirectly. For example, 'imagine if your cat was at the vets because it was very unwell and you came into school to find that someone had stamped on your school books'. Not only will this encourage children to consider how they would like others to treat them and allow them to imagine being victims of bullying but will also help them understand what may be happening in the lives of others outside of school, encouraging and developing empathy at an early age.
2. Swap Shoes: Although imagination is an incredibly powerful tool, it can sometimes allow children to feel disconnected. 'swapping shoes' shares real life stories and allows children and young people to make more powerful connections. As teachers, you should encourage children to swap shoes with others and using people in the public eye is a great way of doing this - the royal family, celebrities, people within the community etc.
3. Write Letters: Writing a letter is incredibly powerful and children and young people can use letter writing to reflect upon their behaviours, the behaviour of bullies and the impact of bullying. Children can decide who they might like to write letters to - someone that has bullied them, someone they have bullied, you as their teacher, themselves or someone totally different but providing them time to write letters relating to bullying is likely to be a rewarding task.
4. Provide Opportunities: It is important that we provide opportunities for both bullies and the victims of bullies to ask questions, explore emotions and get support. You can do this in your classroom with a jar for questions, a clear opportunity for talking, dedicated times and opportunities to start conversations or clear methods for communicating with you (like leaving a note or writing a letter). It's important that you ensure your pupils feel safe, secure and able to discuss peer relationships and behaviours with you as a source of fairness, rationality and kindness.
5. Keep Constant: Although it is easy to focus on bullying this week as it is anti bullying awareness week, it is important that your approach and attitude towards bullying remains constant throughout this and every school year. Ensure your own moods don't change the culture or environment of your classroom and continue the conversations you begin now.
If you would like any more tips around addressing bullying in the classroom, please feel free to get in touch.