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November 1, 2023
Vol. 81
No. 3
Step By Step

Proactive Steps for Anti-Bullying

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    School Culture
    Photo of a female student in a crowded school hallway looking isolated and sad
    Credit: SKYNESHER / iSTOCK
      Bullying is a behavioral concern for many educators. Helpful steps teachers can take to make their classroom bully-free—with accompanying tools—are found in Smart from the Start: 100 Tools for Teaching with Confidence (ASCD, 2023), a workbook designed to assist veteran and novice educators in linking effective teaching practices to desirable student outcomes.
      A chapter devoted to making classrooms "no-bully zones" guides teachers on proactive strategies to intervene against bullying. By better identifying bullying behaviors, setting up conditions to prevent bullying, and creating a safe and predictable classroom space, teachers can reduce these behaviors from the start, using steps like these. (The three tools that follow can be found in Smart from the Start).
      1. Identify the Categories and Types of Bullying: A first step to reducing bullying in your classroom is recognizing that it's happening, which includes spotting both direct and subtle bullying actions. An easy-to-use table in the book shows characteristics of types of bullying (including physical, verbal, and relational) and gives information on where teachers should keep an eye out for bullying (e.g., in transitions during the school day or at school events). Being aware of categories and types of bullying actions helps teachers pay attention to subtle behaviors that show a problem is budding (such as seeing a student is avoiding a friend group) and equips them to address bullying with nuanced and deepened understanding.
      2. Share Responsibility: Teachers cannot prevent bullying alone, so talking with students about how everyone has a role in prevention is a good next step. The book provides a Venn diagram that teachers can reference to clarify individual and group responsibilities when it comes to bullying prevention. Teachers are responsible for practices like in-school conflict resolution, holding class members responsible for their actions, and teaching anti-bullying skills like self-awareness and self-reflection. Students are responsible for holding themselves accountable, following rules consistently, and serving as peer advocates when appropriate. This tool helps adults and students visualize which responsibilities can be shared across a school community, including valuing kindness, emphasizing empathy, and developing teamwork strategies.
      3. Cultivate a Warm Classroom: This is a "step" that must be done continually. A questionnaire—developed by the book's authors James Stronge, Jessica Straessle, and Xianxuan Xu—offers teachers a way to evaluate whether they are creating a classroom that is "warm, caring, supportive, controlled, cooperative, demanding, and cohesive—all factors that help with anti-bullying" (p. 77). The self-assessment includes questions such as, "Do I model the respect and social skills I want to see from my students?" and offers follow-up questions to nurture teacher-student and student-student relationships, like, "If you answered no, could you think aloud the next time you get frustrated and model for students how you self-regulate?"
      These three steps can help educators hone their understanding of bullying behaviors, set high behavioral expectations among students, and create supportive environments that are conducive to an anti-bullying culture.

      Smart from the Start

      Over 100 easy-to-incorporate tools to help teachers survive and thrive in the classroom.

      Smart from the Start

      Jessica Comola is an editor with Educational Leadership magazine.

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