We’ve all seen it before – on social media, on the news, and some of us have even experienced it when we were in school – BULLYING. It is the ultimate stain on a string of good behaviour. It is the sign of something not right beneath a student’s demeanour.
As teachers, the responsibility could fall on our shoulders to protect the victims of bullying as well as correct and nurture the bully to see his or her faults. As such we need to be observant for telltale signs of bullying. But first, we must understand the types of bullying.
Bullying can come in many forms – verbal abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and abuse that happens online or cyber-bullying. Some may be easier to spot than others. Thankfully, there are telltale signs that allow us to nip it in the bud. Here are some signs that give away a student’s potential for bullying and actions we MUST take to curb them.
Herd mentality is where the bully acts violently when goaded by his or her friends. In many cases, bullies prefer to be in groups. With camera phones now brought to school, we have seen a spike of bullying videos where victims are beaten up by gangs even in our own Malaysian schools.
Many gangs of bullies practice bad behaviour such as coarse jesting, physical pushing and overstepping of personal space. Look out for these types of behaviour when in the classroom or school setting.
One way to curb herd mentality is to split up the “clicks” in each class and make the individuals work with those who are different. The school’s management may have an impact in shaping each student’s behaviour. Teachers should openly discuss the topic with the school management and work out harsher punishments for those caught bullying. In extreme cases, external help is needed. When bullying turns physically dangerous, the school management can seek help from the police and other authorities.
Here are some contact numbers you can reach out to in the event of a bullying:
● Befrienders Malaysia (24 hours daily) at +603 7956 8144 or +603 7956 8145 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
● Protect and Save the Children (Mon-Fri, 9am – 5pm) at +603 7957 4344 or by
● Online abuse can be reported at: email@example.com or by
telephone at: 1-300-88-2999 (office hours), Emergency 24/7: +6019 – 266 5850
Sometimes a student may linger around after the school day has ended. He or she may be waiting for someone or an opportunity to strike on a victim. Bullies often choose situations where they can easily target their victim without authority present. A sign of lingering may go both ways as both bullies and victims can illicit this behaviour.
Spend some time after class has ended to ask any students lingering if they need anything. If their excuse seems fishy or they show signs of anxiety, you may need to monitor them a little closer. It’s best to get parental help on some matters too. Keeping their parents in the loop creates accountability on their whereabouts and doings. When monitored closely by both parents and teachers, students will definitely be discouraged from bullying others.
As teachers, our intuition should tell us where students differ from each other. In some cases, we may have a majority of students who are similar and one or two who don’t seem to fit in. This could be due to a difference in style choices, behaviours that do not follow societal norms, or differences in race and ethnicity. Boys get picked on for having “feminine” or “soft” traits while girls get bullied for their dressing, looks, or due to jealousy (among other reasons).
A teacher can curb potential bullying by highlighting some benefits of diversity and fostering activities that encourage teamwork. Address issues that may arise on the spot and DO NOT let them fester. Education is the best way to create a “we” mindset instead of a “me” thought process. We could go a step further and organise a school event highlighting the causes and effects bullying has on students and the repercussions of bullying in the long run.
Students themselves can create a school club to fight bullying and organise events that educate on bullying. Clubs also provide a safe space for victims of bullying to come forward and tell their experience while getting the help they need.
Verbal bullying is often the most common form of bullying. Words can be used to hurt people intentionally. Excessive laughter is also one form of bullying – in this case, laughter towards a student’s characteristic that is not typically funny. When a student gets laughed at excessively, he or she may be a victim.
Teachers must notice the little shifts in tone and language between students. Practice makes perfect and a seasoned teacher may have a good eye to spot these nuances. Listen to their interactions and correct them when it happens. Keep a close communication with students’ parents as they could get vital daily updates on their progress.
These four signs of bullying are not the only things to look out for. We as teachers, must keep our eyes out for other more subtle forms of bullying such as cyber bullying. But most of all, we must take action when we do encounter bullying even in its slightest and smallest form. Only when action is taken will bullying stop.
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