The following synopsis of articles relates to bullying behavior and is then discussed in relevance to a classroom setting. The research provided asserts that bullying is linked to violence in schools. Also discussed are the actual behaviors taking place and the outcomes of such conduct. Additionally, the student's role and teacher awareness and responsibilities for intervention and prevention are explained.
More frequently than ever, violence from the home and communities is extending into the schools. Social withdrawal, feelings of isolation, loneliness, persecution, and rejection, as well as low interest in school, and expression of violent writing and drawings are indications of a student bullying that often lead to violence (Beane, 1999). Aggressive students viewed as the bully usually do not commit the violent school crimes; instead it is usually the victim. Teachers do have a role in preventing and reducing bullying for the safety of the entire school. Both the victim and the bully look for a teacher's help; students who cannot solve a problem on their own depend on adults to help them (Newman, Horne, & Bartolomucci, 2000).
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Determining the difference between a bullying behavior and teasing can come with difficulty. Physical bullying entails poking, pinching, biting, hitting, hair pulling, kicking, or beating (NASW, 2002a). Physical bullying such as this takes place more often among school-age boys than school-age girls (Olweus, 1993). Verbal bullying can include teasing, name calling, threats, and spreading rumors. In addition, emotional bullying can involve exclusion, extortion, defamation of character, or blackmail (NASW, 200a). The National Association of Social Workers (2002a) also reported females were more likely to be bullied with rumors than males. Since girls have been found to be less physically aggressive than their male counterparts, their more subtle bullying behavior is overlooked by adults (NASW, 2002b). In a study conducted by Atlas and Pepler (1998), 53% of observed bullying episodes included verbal bullying, while physical bullying took place in only 30% of the observed episodes.
Many adults believe that bullying takes place mostly on the way to and from school, but Olweus (1993) has reported that without a doubt most bullying takes place at school. In fact, Olweus (1993) found that three times more bullying took place at school than in route to and from school. Sheras (2002) explained that the locations within the school that are unsupervised like bathrooms and locker rooms are most often used by bullies.
School-age bullies are unique in comparison to classmates due to their aggression toward peers. Sheras (2002) clarified that all students feel anger; bullies usually have an inability to channel their anger in an acceptable fashion. Beane (1999) explained that bullies are different from a student who may tease someone occasionally, because a pattern of intimidation forms. Perpetrators of bully behavior have little empathy for others, have a more positive attitude toward violence, and are aggressive to parents and teachers as well as their peers (Olweus, 1993). According to Sheras (2002), bullies find victims who are weak in some way to harass in mental or physical ways. Students who bully are looking to dominate others, as they are searching for a sense of control and balance (Olweus, 1993; NASW, 2002b). The National Association of Social Workers (2002b) explained that bullies are usually solely concerned with their own pleasure and will use others to get what they want. The selfish attitude of bullies is demonstrated by their unwillingness to accept others' ideas and unwillingness to negotiate while at play (Sheras, 2002). Given a bully's behavior of using others, one might think the bully would be friendless. However, The National Association of Social Workers (2002b) found that bullies are not always socially isolated, and it may even be easy for bullies to make friends. In fact, Sheras (2002) indicated bullies are often average or above-average in popularity.
Bullies often exhibit personal traits of anger and unhappiness, and act out physically instead of using words. Bullies are reported to have poor behavior at school with destruction of property, intimidation of younger children and a short attention span (Sheras, 2002). These negative behaviors can be linked to a child's lifestyle outside of school and stretch past the years spent in school. Beane (1999) explained that 25 percent of adults with criminal records by age thirty were described as school bullies. It is important to remember that bullies can become the victim of those they persecute, as witnessed by the recent number of school shootings.
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Bullies most often chose their targets based on the target's physical appearance, mannerisms, or the fact that the victim just does not fit in (Beane, 1999). Olweus (1993) explained that victims are usually more anxious and cautious than other students. Often times, especially with boys, victims are physically smaller. Victims usually grant their perpetrator with a "reward" such as their lunch or an outward show of fear or sadness (Beane, 1999; Olweus, 1993). As general rule, according to Olweus (1993), victims do not have friends, and withdraw from others. Sheras (2002) indicated that victims are often socially isolated and have a low self-esteem. School staff can have difficulties picking out children who are the victims of bullying.
Bullied students are reluctant to go to school, spend more time in the nurses' office and sometimes refuse to leave the house (Sheras, 2002). These students spend less time in the classroom, causing a sudden drop in grades. Twenty-two percent of fourth through eighth graders say they experience difficulties academically due to bullying (Beane, 1999). Bullying can cause other negative impacts in addition to academic problems. Victims of bullying can become afraid of meeting new people, become frightened when approached by another child, and have more anger and resentment with no apparent reason (Sheras, 2002). As explained by Sheras (2002), victims of bullying can experience more hunger due to fear of the cafeteria or their lunch being stolen, lack of sleep caused by nightmares, bedwetting, and pain due to waiting until getting home to use the bathroom.
Interventions for children should not only be directed to students who show characteristics of a bully or a victim, but should be preventative in nature for all students (Atlas & Pepler, 1998). Intervention should begin early, focusing on attitudes against bullying and perceiving the perpetrator negatively (Atlas & Pepler, 1998). Sheras (2002) provided simple intervention tactics for students. Students can assertively ask a bully to stop, ask friends to help, notify adults of what is going on and continue to let adults know if the bullying continues.
Other students also play a factor in a bully situation. A peer onlooker of bullying is defined as a child who is watching the bullying episode for at least five seconds of any portion of the episode (Atlas & Pepler, 1998). An onlooker of a bullying situation attempts to avoid the situation, for fear they may be the next victim if there is an attempt to intervene (Beane, 1999). There are also interveners. These are students who physically or verbally end the interaction (Atlas & Pepler, 1998). Newman, Horne, and Bartolomucci (2000) explained that peer onlookers are also considered to be bystander victims. Bystander victims are scared to report bullying for fear that they may be next, but they also feel guilty for not helping. Students can successfully fight bullying behavior, but it takes courage and support from faculty.
The entire school environment can be affected by bullying. Bullying interferes with student achievement and development. Bulling also creates long-term negative social and emotional outcomes for students (NASW, 2002a). Faculty involvement with intervening and preventing bullying must not be avoided. Newman, Horne, and Bartolomucci (2000) indicate some core conditions for teachers to maintain to help in the intervention and reduction of bullying behaviors. Some of those conditions are: be a role model to set precedents and guide students, understand the different forms of bullying, be observant of the behaviors in the classroom which can allow for awareness of bullying situations, and believe in the ability to make of difference with students.
Beane (1999) reported that schools with helpful and visible principals experienced less violence than schools whose principals were unhelpful and invisible. However, Atlas and Pepler (1998) found in a study involving observances of bullying episodes that teachers intervened in only 18% of bullying episodes, and teachers were only aware of 50% of bullying episodes. The study showed that teachers do not usually intervene, and are sometimes unaware that bullying is even taking place. Identifying the traits of bullying behavior is essential to intervention and prevention.
As a future classroom teacher this research has been beneficial in not only identifying bullying behaviors but also in mentioning preventative measures to take to decrease or prevent bullying from happening in the school. The research will most directly impact my visibility in the school. Often teachers are hesitant or unable to leave their classroom during passing periods and this is of course an optimal time for bullying to occur. A simple thing, such as stepping out into the hallway during this time can dramatically alter the environment and impact the behaviors of the students. Being approachable and willing to help is also a key factor. Teachers often get the reputation of only being concerned with the goings-on of their classroom, and this is why students feel they cannot confide in or divulge information to faculty. Providing an atmosphere that students feel comfortable and safe in is crucial to gaining their confidence. Finally I think it is completely appropriate to put coursework aside from time to time in order to discuss life or social lessons. Openly discussing bullying to the entire class as well as the ramifications of those actions for the bully and the victim will hopefully deter some students from partaking. Students are curious by nature and usually choose to learn by doing. If I can give them the information on bullying before it takes place, perhaps they will be less inclined to exhibit the behavior. These steps alone will not end aggressive behavior, but being there as a support system for all students and understanding the research behind bullying can only help lead to prevention.
- Atlas, R. and Pepler, D. (1998). Observations of bullying in the classroom. The Journal of Educational Research, 92, 86-89.
- Beane, A.L. (1999). The bully free classroom. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing Co.
- National Association of Social Workers. (2002a, May). Bullying among school-age youths (Part I). Children, Families, & Schools, 2(4), 1-5.
- National Association of Social Workers. (2002b, July). Bullying among school-age youths (Part II). Children, Families, & Schools, 2(5), 1-6.
- Newman, D.A., Horne, A.M., and Bartolomucci, C.L. (2000). Bully busters: a teacher's manual for helping bullies, victims, and bystanders. Champaign, IL: Research Press.
- Olweus, D. (1993). Bullying at school. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers Inc.
- Sheras, P. (2002). Your child: Bully or Victim? Understanding and ending schoolyard tyranny. New York, NY: Skylight Press.
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