Recognizing the Signs of School Bullying at School
School is the #1 place where bullying occurs, for the simple fact that it’s where children congregate and spend the most time among peers. This puts teachers at ground zero in the fight against bullying. Yet as Sullovan, Cleary & Sullovan (2004, p. 8) report, “teachers consistently underestimated the level of bullying that students identified as occurring” in their schools. (Emphasis theirs) Worse yet, they go on to cite other studies which indicate that “bullying most often goes on very close to the teacher.” (ibid, p. 11) It would seem clear that many teachers miss the warning signs for bullying that is taking place all around them.
Far too often teachers will remain blissfully unaware when a child is throwing up red flags in their face. Worse still, many kids are punished by their attempts to evade bullying because the adult doesn’t understand what is going on. So if you want to avoid being one of these insensitive, clueless teachers, make yourself familiar with the warning signs that a child in your classroom is being bullied.
Signs & Symptoms of Bullying at School
1. A child does not want to go out for recess but can’t really give you any good reason.
2. During their time at school, a child often complains of illness or makes frequent attempts to go to the nurse’s office, though there does not appear to be anything wrong with them.
3. You notice that a child seems to be avoiding certain classmates, taking caution to watch where they are positioned in line or otherwise carefully monitoring their movements.
4. A child seems to be frequently chosen last in activities or seems to always play by themselves on the playground. When you assign a child for group activities, other kids act disgusted or disappointed that this child is in their group.
5. You notice that a child no longer plays/congregates/hangs out with kids who were once their friends.
6. A child develops the tendency of trying to hang around teachers or other adults, staying close to staff as a means of evading the bullying.
7. An otherwise good student experiences a sudden drop in grades, or stops raising their hand or giving answers in class, which might open them up for ridicule.
8. A child starts stammering or starts getting jumpy and seems to startle easily.
9. A teen begins taking the long route through the school or finds longer ways to the bus/exit as a means of evading bullies.
10. A child asks for a different seat in class or wants to be assigned a different locker in the hallway but seems reluctant to give you a reason.
As a teacher, if you notice any of these signs, you might want to do a little further investigating or have other staff keep their eyes and ears open for any bullying that might be taking place. Most importantly, if that quiet child comes to you and says they don’t want to go outside for recess today, don’t be the mean and clueless teacher who barks some harsh comment about “what kind of kid doesn’t want to play?” and then shuffles them out the door anyway. Maybe they can stay inside once and help you set up, which also gives you a perfect opportunity to engage them in a one-on-one conversation that might give you a hint about what is going on.
Teachers in the higher grades (5th through high school) need to be particularly attuned to indicators of bullying. As kids get older, bullying becomes not only more common, but more severe, and so do the consequences. Kids who are being bullied might be reluctant to talk about it, and initially may not even want an adult meddling in their affairs out of fear for what might happen. But this doesn’t mean they don’t desire assistance, even if it’s just to talk it over with someone.