Fighting against classroom bullying

Professors in Butler University’s College of Education are working to raise awareness about bullying and training future teachers to combat it in their classrooms.

Students are learning ways to prevent bullying and also to ensure kids that they can ask for help if they are being bullied.

”The beginning of the year is not the only important time to be building a community in the classroom to promote healthy, safe and supportive relationships all year,” Marie Spear, a senior education major, said.

A common method that many teachers use to prevent bullying is to make sure that there is a sense of community in the classroom.

“We are really working on community building, which can be a great method for preventing bullying,” Catherine Pangan, assistant professor of education, said.

Even though many teachers agree that building community is key for preventing bullying, they have different ways of going about forming that classroom community.

“In my classroom we often have ‘family’ meetings to check in on how students are doing and feeling about their learning environment,” senior education major Shelley Henrich said.

Not only is it increasingly important to build community, but Henrich said you also want to create a welcoming environment where kids can seek help from their teachers, instead of keeping all of their feelings inside.

“I always try to form a relationship with each individual student,” senior education major Katie Hileman said. “Knowing that a teacher cares enough to ask how a dance recital, weekend or soccer game went can make a significant difference in a child’s life.”

Students respond to many different methods of teaching preventative bullying. It is not always so black and white.

Teaching students to become better people will encourage them to be better people, and thus not bully, Hileman said.

“Every day, I attempt to actively model and encourage core values like respect, honesty and integrity,” senior education major Stew Smith said. “I make every possible connection to these values during my lessons and during ‘down times.’”

“The teachers who really make a difference are the ones who teach students how to be better learners and people.”

Teachers also must cherish diversity among students when creating classroom communities. It is a great way to prevent bullying, even if it is not a direct lesson on bullying.

“When diversity is celebrated and students are able to contribute to the class in a personal way regularly, they see each other for who they are and are less likely to bully each other over differences,” Spear said.

There are many great books and websites to supplement learning about bullying in the classroom, and teachers use these to connect with student about the issue on a deeper and more meaningful level.

“I am planning on reading the book ‘How Full is Your Bucket for Kids’ to help students realize the negative emotional effects their mean comments have on their peers, and build empathy and community in the classroom,” Henrich said.

They can then use this book to create activities and projects that elicit positive relationships among students, and prevent bullying.

There are many roles teachers play in their classroom environments that are crucial to not only preventing bullying, but to know what it is when they see it and how to address it.

Butler University’s College of Education is working to prepare the next generation of teachers on how to create positive and bully-free environments in their classrooms.