Here are ways that a teacher can spot who the bully is in their classroom or beyond.
Teachers can be a bullied child’s first line of defense, because they are in such a position to prevent, or at least, greatly minimize, harassment in the schoolplace.
For this article I consulted with Dr. Marilyn Benoit, MD, Chief Clinical Officer and SVP of Clinical & Professional Affairs of Devereux, one of the largest not-for-profit behavioral healthcare organization in the country. Dr. Benoit also has a family practice as a child and adolescent psychiatrist.
“There’s a tremendous amount of pressure on teachers today in managing their classrooms and students,” says Dr. Benoit.
“It can be very difficult, because as I said, bullies are opportunistic. They take advantage of unsupervised opportunities.”
Dr. Benoit provides five ways that teachers can spot a bully:
Be aware of student’s activities, says Dr. Benoit. In junior high, I don’t know if the teachers were blind or decided to ignore bullying, but bullying went on right when the teacher was in the room.
How could the art teacher not have seen Paula pulling at Louise’s hair while we were all supposed to be working on a project?
Paula was in Louise’s face long enough that I’m sure the teacher must have sooner or later caught a glimpse, but did nothing.
Another sign of bullying that a teacher can pick up on is if “children tend to cower around one child; if one child appears to dominate others; if a bully has a ‘posse’ that tends not to join ordinary activities; if a bully uses ‘secretive maneuvers,’ i.e., extorting another child; if a child has an angry baseline,” explains Dr. Benoit.
Understand the family dynamics of children through parent / teacher conferences and interactions, says Dr. Benoit.
As an example, “if an older sibling is responsible for watching or even taking over the parental role, the younger child may be exposed to sibling bullying.”
Dr. Benoit advises teachers to monitor isolated areas at schools that a bully might take advantage of (hallways, restrooms, locker rooms, school buses, playgrounds).
The corner of a classroom where kids are more free to move about is also a hot spot for bullying, such as in an art or shop class. And one of the hottest bullying spots is the gymnasium.
“Teachers should listen to children and inform parents when children say they are being bullied (some teachers may ignore the complaints, or believe it’s only teasing or question whether it happened because they didn’t witness it),” points out Dr. Benoit.
The “It Didn’t Happen Because I Didn’t See It” Mentality
“I’ve seen instances where a bullied child fears speaking up because the teacher didn’t see it and therefore, it didn’t happen,” says Dr. Benoit.
“Almost 100% of the kids will tell me that when they report an incident to their teacher, the incident is ignored.”
This can foster more depression and isolation in the victim. “In their mind, the bullying never happened because the teacher doesn’t believe them.”