One afternoon I observed three second-graders standing in line for lunch, two children were laughing and calling another child names as they were flicking his ear. The victim was just standing there saying nothing. Of course I intervened demanded the children to stop and asked them why they were being so disrespectful and mean to their classmate. They responded ‘I don’t know’ and proceed through the lunch line. I informed their teacher of what I observed and she said she “They are always picking on him” with a disgusted tone in her voice and walked away.
Weeks later I attended a workshop on bullying and I was perplexed on how prevalent bullying is in the early elementary grades. I had been in a diverse second grade classroom for ten weeks and could only recall that one incident. I knew it was naive to think that bullying was not happening in the 2nd grade at my school, but where is the bullying taking place? How many second graders have been bullied and how often? What do they do when they are bullied and if/how they think bullying can be stopped? Do boys and girls view bullying differently? Why do 2nd graders feel kids bully other kids? And most important, How can I prevent kids from bulling other kids?
There is a plethora of information and resources on bullying specifically the effects on the victim and bully, why and when it happens and interventions techniques. What was most astounding is the frequency of bullying and the possible life-long effects that it can have on all parties involved. According to the Don’t Laugh at Me Curriculum: Crossing the Line it is estimated that 160,000 children miss school everyday due to fear of a bully. Approximately 1:7 school children are either a bully or a victim (www.dontlaugh.org). And 60% of boys who were bullies in middle school had at least one criminal conviction by age twenty-four (Olweus, 1993). The victims are more likely to be depressed and withdrawn, lonely, anxious, have low self-esteem and contemplate suicide (Limber, 2002).
The question lies are teachers and administrators aware of how prevalent bulling is in elementary schools? One survey suggests they are not, 25% of students report that teachers intervene in bullying situations, while 71% of teachers always intervene (www.dontlaugh.org). Many experts agree that bullying can be happening right in front of you and you may not be aware of it. Teachers must be aware of changes in moods, attitudes and behaviors of students. They must talk with other teachers and aides especially lunch and recess aides. Elementary school children report that most bullying takes place on the playground at recess time.
Some experts agree that if a child is being bullied that a teacher must intervene (Teolis, 1998). It is not acceptable to ignore bullying or to think of bullying as growing pains of childhood. If a child is being bullied a teacher should stop the bullying immediately. Teachers should keep a record of the occurrences and inform the parents and other school personnel with specific examples. A great time to teach the class or discuss what to do when you see someone being bullied is right after the incident also called the “teachable moment”. The bully and the victim should have separate follow up sessions with the guidance counselor or teacher. The victim may benefit from exercises in building self-esteem, practicing assertive behavior or identifying friends that will give them support. The bully may need help developing empathy and taking responsibility for his/her behavior.
The facts about bullying are hard to ignore, but research does not suggest one best method to prevent. Some research suggests a responsive classroom that creates a sense of community is the best way to prevent bullying. They believe that students who greet each other each morning, share like experiences and work together will less likely to be a bully or be bullied.
The topic of bullying in elementary school is a large and complex topic so I decided to focus on what second graders thought about bullying and then analyze their answers by comparing to the research on what educators think about bullying. To obtain my data I contrived a survey on bullying that was comprised of 7 questions (see Attachment A). I choose to only ask seven questions because I had to collect my data during lunch and recess and I only wanted the questioning to last about one to two minutes for each child. Also for that reason I asked the students multiple choice and yes/no questions. A total of 30 students, approximately half of the second grade, participated in my research. The students that participated were from various racial and ethnic backgrounds, half of them were boys and half were girls. I let them know before they completed the survey that I was not using their names and there were no right or wrong answers. I read the questions to them and they verbally answered them as I was recorded their answers. I kept a tally of their of answers on a separate sheet of paper. I recorded the girl’s answers separate from the boys so I could analyze if there were any discrepancies between the genders.
To analyze and interpret my findings I entered the data into an excel spreadsheet. Each of the questions was represented with a pie graph of the aggregate data and a bar graph to compare the boys and girls responses. This method made it easy to see in the data in percentages as well as number of students questioned.
When I began this project I had no idea of the serious and life altering affects of bullying in elementary school. I did not fathom that children in my class were being bullied and at times did not want to come to school because of a bully. It was unsettling to hear that 24% of 2nd graders surveyed believed that there is no way to stop bullying. At the young age of 8 and 9 years old they had come to the conclusion that there will always be bullies and victims, and not even adults could stop that. It made me realize that bullying is something that needs to be addressed in the classroom. That children need to know strategies to deal with bullies and actions they can take if they see a bullying situation. Bullying is not something that children should except as an inevitable aspect of elementary school.
Children need to be taught at an early age what to do if they are bullied. 20% of they boys I surveyed said they fight back if they are bullied. Children need to be taught alternatives to fighting when confronted with a bully. One way to teach children is using role-playing. One method I observed in my school was teaching children to use an “I message”.
It is also the schools responsibility to educate all staff members on the prevention, termination and effects of bullying. I attended an in-service day workshop on bullying and ironically the lunch/recess aids were not present even know kids said this is where the most bullying takes place. According to the children surveyed the lunch/recess aides stopped fighting on the playground by taking away recess time, but did little to prevent it from happening again.
Upon completion of my inquiry project I have more questions than answers. I would like to know what the children that I surveyed felt toward bullies, specifically if they ever bullied someone and why? Also do they think bullies are cool or uncool? What strategies and interventions do teachers implement? How do teachers work with the victims of bullies to build their self-esteem? What individual supports are in place for bullies and victims?
What I have learned is that bullying is prevalent but not obvious in elementary schools. Teachers need know their students and create an atmosphere where students feel comfortable to talk about their feeling and fears. Teachers also need to talk with other school personnel and let them know if any situations where bullying could be occurring. In the classroom students need to celebrate diversity and respect each other. They need to learn how to be a good friend and must be taught empathy. If bulling is occurring teachers must work together with the bully, the guidance counselor, the parents and any other prevalent parties to help the child have alternate positive behaviors. After extensive research the most positive and encouraging discovery is there is many resources, many which are free, to help teachers prevent and stop bullying. Two websites I visited offered free bullying information designed for teachers: they are www.StopBullyingNow.hrsa.gov and www.dontlaugh.org.
Beane, A. (1999). Bully Free Classroom. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit.
Geffner, R. Loring, M. & Young, C. (2001). Bully Behavior. New York: The
Pearson, P. (2004). When Kids are Cruel. Maclean’s, 117 (18), 49.
Teolis, b. (1998) Ready to Use Conflict Resolution Activities for Elementary Students.
West Nyack, New York: The Center for Applied Research in Education.
The Scope and Impact of Bullying. Retrieved May 23, 2004 from www.StopBullyingNow.hrsa.gov
1. How often have you been bullied?
2. What do you do if you are bullied?
3. Where does bullying most often happen?
4. Did you ever not want to come to school because of a bully? Yes or No
5. Why do kids bully other kids?
6. How can we stop bullying?
7. Are bullies more often boys, girls or both?