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In order to create a safe and conducive learning environment for students, serious problems that exist in schools/classrooms settings need to be addressed. One of such problems is bullying. According to Barbara Colosoro, in her book The Bully, The Bullied and The Bystander bullying is defined as "a conscious, willful and deliberate activity intended to harm, induce fear through the threat of further aggression and create threat." Bullying basically occurs when a student deliberately dislike somebody considered to be inferior or worthless.
Cohn & Canter, 2003 and Kokl, 1999 categorized bullying into three types which are Physical, Verbal and Psychological. Physical bullying involves hitting, kicking, spiting, pushing, stealing and destruction of victim's property. Verbal bullying takes the form of taunting, malicious teasing, name calling and making threats. Psychological bullying includes spreading rumors, manipulating social relationships, exclusion from a peer group activities, extortion and intimidation.
Bullying can take place anywhere in the school, play ground, hallways, lunchroom, washroom, and classroom and even in the school bus. There are three people involved in bullying; the bully is the person who is causing harm; the bullied is the victim that is receiving bullying while the bystander is the person watching the scene (Barbara Colosoro). A child is considered bullied when there is a repeatedly occurrence of harassment or abuse (Olweus, 1996). Research suggested that bullying can become a long time issue if it is not dealt with immediately.
In order to stop or prevent this hurtful behavior, adult needs to intervene immediately and take preventive steps to stop the behavior from future occurrences. The first step will be to recognize when a bullying problem has occur (UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1990).
Various researches were conducted on the statistical rate of bullying in schools. The statistics show that in the elementary school 15% of students have bullied others more than once or twice while 20% have been victimized more than once or twice (Craig, Peters & Konarski, 1998). In the high school, research conducted showed that 11% of students have bullied others while 10-15% was victims more than once in a week.
Research also showed how students were bullied according to genders (Pepler, Craig & Connolly, 2003). In the elementary school, 14% boys and 9% of girls have bullies others while 5% of boys and 7% of girls age 4-11 years were bullied (Craig, Peters, Konarski, 1998). In the middle school 42% boys and 23% girls in grade 6, 7, and 8 have bullied other student in the past two months while10-13 % of boys and 4-11% of girl were victimized (Pepler, Craig, Onnolly, Yuie, Mc master & Jiang, 2005). In the high school, a Canadian study revealed that 41% of boys and 21% of girls in grade 9- 12 had bullied other students in two months ( Craig, Cooolly, Pepler, Ziegler et al, 2005).
Pepler & Craig, (1997) observed that bullying occurs on the play ground once every seven minute in the primary grades while in the classroom once every twenty five minutes. Approximately 160,000 students stay at home from school each day because they are afraid of being bullied (Vail, 1999) . It has also been observed that an estimated half a million students nationwide are marked absent every 30 days because of bullying (Sampson, 2000).
From this statics it is apparent that bullying is one of the significant reasons why students do not feel safe in school. Until the issue is addressed by the school, government and parents it will continue to stand as obstacle to creating a safe learning environment. I intend to research on this topic so as to understand a better strategy of helping my students to feel safe, secured and thrive in their learning
In order to create a safe learning environment school needs to implement a bully free environment. Dillon and Lash (2005) suggested the following strategies that can be used:
Teacher should set aside class time for discussion with students about the problem of bullying.
Student should learn the behavior that is expected of them and understand that they do have choices regarding their behavior.
Students should be taught to report any incident of bullying; the school should provide an atmosphere in which student who do report will not face any further threaten or retaliation.
Role play is another strategy that can be used to give students a chance to practice skills for effective bullying controls; they can translate these skills into everyday life situations. Students should also be taught about conflict resolution.
Students should be instructed on how to resolve conflicts
Teacher should teach the students the skills and tools for cooperation, thereby creating a compassionate classroom
Students should be taught to respect all human form different walks of life.
In order to further my investigation, I was able to conduct interviews with three different teachers. This is to see from their own point of view since they deal with students on daily basis. I asked the teachers the same question so that I will be able to compare and get their opinions. The question I asked them is:
"How have you been able to create a safe environment that is void of bullying in the classroom?"
They all gave different responses
Teacher A: "I educate my students about bullying and inform them the consequence that may follow if a child is caught bullying another child. The school has policies about bullying"
Teacher B: "I am unsure if bullying can be completely eradicated from the school environment but it can be reduced to the minimum level. I create a classroom forum in which I discuss with the students about bullying. I teach them to stand up for others and they should report bullying. I make my classroom accessible to my students so that they can be free to share their concern and worries.
Teacher C': "I have dealt with the issues of bullying on several occasions. My school does not tolerate bullying; we have a policy in place. In my classroom I got some posters on the wall to keep reminding my students about evil in bullying. I give them information about bullying. I allow my students to think of ways in which we can stop bullying in the classroom/school environment and they came up with fantastic ideas. I also teach my students on how to show empathy to other.
Implication for Future Teaching
From this inquiry, I have learnt many things that will enable me to provide a safe environment for my students. I need to implement a forum for class discussion which will allow the students to speak their minds. I also need to encourage and enhance such communication. I will incorporate collaborative learning in which students can work together, appreciate each other, respect each other, and value each other. I will set up class routines; this will help students to know what is expected of them, they will be able to share their feelings with their classmates and me. I will help the students to understand the adverse effect of bullying on other students and how we can deal with it. I will also explore different class activities like role play, which will help the students to develop their self esteem, assertiveness and confidence in themselves. I will ensure that in the classroom, the student do not put each other down, but show respect to ideas, understand that each individual is unique irrespective of race, gender, color or religion.
As a result of this inquiry, new additional questions have developed which I may like to further explore in future in order to continue to provide a safe learning environment as my practice. My new questions are:
How can I get my students more involved in conflict resolution?
What other strategies can I use to foster cooperative learning in my classroom?
How can I recognize the first bullying problem?