In their opinion, this will help schools develop effective anti-bullying programs and preventive approaches. The study results were published in “Modern Foreign Psychology” magazine.
MSUPE experts have indicated the difficulties that teachers when dealing with bullying. In addition, the scientists have drafted recommendations on dealing with aggression and bullying for educators, as well as outlined the teacher’s role in preventing and solving such problems.
Experts believe that the teacher is one of the key figures in dealing with bullying among children.
The teacher is a role model for students, and their reaction to bullying affects the students’ behaviour and their trust in adults in situations where they are bullied. However, when dealing with bullying, teachers often have difficulties, and make mistakes or even are inactive.
“Quite often, teachers consider bullying to be typical group behaviour that does no harm to children, confusing it with conflicts. They don’t consider psychological harassment, social exclusion, rejection, and neglect to be types of bullying. Confidently identifying only physical bullying, teachers often don’t know how to reduce aggression, and rely on their own domestic experience rather than on professional knowledge,” Rimma Chirkina, Head of the Department of Legal Psychology and Law at MSUPE, said.
According to Chirkina, teachers often believe that finding the aggressor and talking to them is enough, as well as an apology from the offender would be enough for the victim. At the same time, witnesses of bullying, who are also harmed by the situation, remain uninvolved. In situations where teachers prefer not to notice even obvious aggressive behaviour or give children the right to solve the problem themselves, only a few students are ready to trust the teacher with information about what is happening at school.
The researcher pointed out that even if school administration, parents and law enforcement agencies are involved in solving the bullying problem, while the problem is not discussed with those involved in the situation, this will most lead to poor results. In most cases, bullying doesn’t stop after these measures, becoming hidden from the teacher.
“Having analyzed the few Russian and most foreign studies, we have learned that the lack of effective methods to prevent school bullying is due to the teacher’s personal characteristics, their lack of knowledge and practical skills, as well as their stereotypical approach to dealing with bullying,” Chirkina said.
Teachers with a high level of empathy and communicative competencies are most effective in dealing with bullying situations. These qualities, together with a clear understanding of the nature and symptoms of bullying, help to more actively intervene in a bullying situation and establish a more trusting relationship with students.
According to Rimma Chirkina, foreign studies confirm that some tools have already proved to be effective in dealing with bullying among children, first of all, creating and observing school rules by everyone, patrolling the “hot spots”, as well as competent management. Experts note that managing a classroom team should include three main management components: monitoring the situation, organizing communication, and mastering management tools.
“The teacher’s managerial competencies are also a preventive element of anti-bullying programmes. The teacher should know the children’s roles at school and be able to influence the student body, without dividing the students into favourites and outcasts, without provoking inequality or appointing commanders and those obeying them,” Rimma Chirkina explained.
She also pointed out that creating success situations, setting joint creative tasks and forming values and rules that exclude violence and inequality in relations are good management tools.
According to psychologists, the teacher should together with children develop class rules, create forms to reinforce the implementation of these rules, as well as give a clear moral assessment of actions that violate these rules. It would be good if this process starts with school conferences, where students and parents learn about the anti-bullying programme and see that the whole school is involved in this process.
“One of the most effective ways to involve the entire school and receive visible support from administration is through school conferences. Such events form a commitment to the programme not only among teachers but also among the administration,” Chirkina stressed.
Researchers believe that if the entire school is involved in anti-bullying programmes, this will help to involve all adults who the child interacts with at school.
At the class level, according to the researchers, in order to prevent bullying and deal with the already existing situations, recovery technologies can be introduced that are actively developing in Russia and have a convincing evidence base of their effectiveness. These are community circles, school and class conferences, restorative mediation and other technologies implemented by school and territorial reconciliation services.
Researchers said that having a community circle at one of the schools with the participation of teachers and classmates (without the aggressor and the victim of bullying) allowed children to express their attitude to the fact of bullying in a safe atmosphere, as well as to form an active position of rejection of bullying. It was after this that the aggressor was resisted by the entire class and the bullying stopped.
“Joint work of teachers and assisting specialists also reduces the level of aggression and victimization, for example, the teacher’s active interaction with the school psychologist as part of early prevention programmes using game methods (MSUPE’s “Strength of the Popular Game” project, the Russian-Finnish Skillful Class programme based on Furman’s Skillful Class method etc.). Implementing rehabilitation programmes involving school reconciliation services is also effective,” Chirkina said.
This significantly improves the atmosphere in class, forms important social skills and ways of mastering one’s behaviour in children, thereby reducing the level of aggression and hostility in the school environment.
According to researchers, introducing all the tools requires additional training for teachers and developing action algorithms for aggressive behaviour and bullying situations. Organizing this work within the school will allow teachers to get support from the school administration and allow them to implement anti-bullying initiatives.