October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and while I’m glad that we are honoring it in October, it is clearly a topic that needs to be addressed all year long. Bullying, the worst form of social violence, has been going on for years in hallways, at the lunch table, at recess, on the bus to and from school, currently on the Internet, and of course in the classroom.
I feel that we haven’t given enough attention to the bullying that takes place in the classroom. When our teens or even our tweens tell us that they don’t like a specific subject, it may not be due to the nature of the material, the subject itself, or the teacher. Instead, it may be due to the social politics of the classroom, which can include subtle and some not so subtle forms of bullying.
I have heard kids talk about several types of bullying that occur in the classroom despite a teacher being present.
Tune in and listen to what the high schoolers and middle schoolers are telling me:
1. They get put into groups to do projects and many of them get excluded from the groups that they would like to be in. And, yes kids who were meant to be in a group of three have done projects alone.
2. Backpacks and other school supplies get tossed around in the classroom, and the goal is not to pass it to its rightful owner.
3. Conversations do go on between kids before the class officially begins, and yes, more than one child has been told “you are not a part of this conversation.”
4. Party invitations are discussed in class and the non-invited get to sit there and feel left out.
5. When there are not assigned seats, your kids are often sitting alone trying not to be noticed.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of what goes on in the classroom, but these are some of the most frequent complaints that I hear from the middle and high schoolers. And, we all know that complaints are really requests in disguise. The requests are to teach them how to fit in, be liked, and not excluded.
So, what is a parent to do?
1. If your child starts complaining about a certain subject, ask a little about the kids in the class. This may open the dialogue about what may really be going on.
2. If your child starts to open up, ask him/her if she’d like your input or for you to just listen.
3. Perhaps, you can suggest that your child talk to the teacher. Teachers can and do want to help the kids if they know what is going on.
4. Remind your child that friendship patterns change very rapidly during these years.
5. If your child is skipping a class regularly or complaining about going to school, ask about each class individually.