Bullying and Student Discipline Solutions: Trend #3

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Possip Reporter and Tennessee AP teacher, Savannah Staley, discusses trends in bullying and student discipline.
Parents, students and staff tell us the negative effects of bullying – low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. As the world goes more virtual, bullying is harder to spot, report, and stop. Still bullying and student discipline are top priorities for educators, administrators, and families alike.  In fact, in our Pulse Checks™ the past school year, bullying and student discipline was one of the top trends across students, parents, and school staff.  This is unique.
Here are some tips for addressing bullying, restoring student relationships, and building a positive school culture.

1. Promote a culture of safety.

When we promote a culture of safety, students feel more freedom to learn, explore, and express themselves. Safety is itself, somewhat subjective. So we need to ask ourselves, safe for who? The goal is not to control students, or to put extreme limitations on their autonomy, but they should feel safe. This means a proactive (rather than reactive) approach to managing bullying and student discipline. You can promote a culture of safety by:
  • Establishing whole-school and classroom community norms and expectations.  Make sure students know what they can expect – in terms of routines, consequences, and expectations.
  • Celebrating achievements as well as vulnerability.  Celebrate students in  multiple forms for meeting expectations.  Celebrate students for the small things – bringing a pencil or pen to class, letting another student go in front of them in line, helping a student pick up papers they dropped.  Celebrate individual and school-wide behavioral 
  • Creating time for student check-ins.  You can use an individual check in or a system like Possip or other technology platforms.  But you want to give students a space to share what they are feeling and experiencing – and why.

2. Practice restorative practices.

Teacher comforting student Stopping bullying is important – but not your full aspiration for a great school culture.  A safe space without bullying is the floor. You want to go higher – and that includes authentically healing the relationship. Bullying is the result of insecurity, trauma, and pain. So it’s not enough to simply address the behavior. You want to uncover the why underneath. By practicing and modeling restorative practices, you can co-create a culture of healing and trust. Here are some examples of restorative practices.
  • Hold space for restorative circles within your classroom communities and schools regularly.
  • Provide opportunities for students to calm their nervous systems and regulate before engaging in restorative conversation.
  • Get curious and ask questions rather than assuming or blaming.
  • Focus on the person, not on the behavior.
  • Practice empathy

3. Align on a student discipline model and stick to it!

It’s tough to get everyone on the same page. When we invite others into the conversation, there’s often more engagement and support. Consider inviting teachers, families, and perhaps even students, into a conversation regarding your school discipline model. Once you have that discipline model in place, stick to it! 

4. Know your students.

This is easier said than done.  Still, it is one of the most important ways to prevent bullying or support students going through it.  When you’re familiar with your students, you’re more likely to notice abnormalities. Additionally, when students feel known, they often also feel safe to confide in trusted adults. When teaching, students sometimes didn’t want to be grouped together. These reasons weren’t always big enough for me to reconsider my grouping. But sometimes they were. You want to create a culture of trust.  At the same time, you want to support students who are learning to trust themselves. As educators, it’s our responsibility to listen and honor these boundaries.  There is not a clear way to prevent bullying. When we work together as a team and prioritize student safety and vulnerability, we make our schools stronger for everyone.

Check out our other Top Trends here! 👇🏻