Classroom Bullying We Don’t Discuss
As we wrap up honoring National Bullying Prevention Month, we need to remember that it is clearly a topic that needs to be addressed all year long. Today, I want to talk about a kind of bullying that we don’t discuss enough — the acts that happen when other kids and even adults are around.
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. It could be due to the social politics of the classroom which can include subtle and some not-so subtle forms of bullying.
I have heard about several types of bullying that occur in the classroom that the kids tell me goes on 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 have done projects alone that were meant to be done in a group of three.
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. Kids are told “you are not a part of this conversation” when they try to get in on pre-class conversations.
4. Party invitations are discussed in class and the non-invited feel left out.
5. When there are not assigned seats, kids can be left to sit alone, and feel isolated.
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.
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. 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 clas s regularly or comlaining about going to school, ask about each class individually.
Have your tweens or teens experienced subtle forms of bullying or social isolation? How has your family handled it?
Dr. Barbara Greenberg, is a clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of adolescents and their well-intentioned but exhausted parents. Formerly the director of an inpatient adolescent unit at a psychiatric hospital in New York for 21 years, she is now in full-time private practice. She is the co-author of Teenage as A Second Language-A Parents Guide to Becoming Bilingual (Adams Media) and the co-creator of the interactive website talkingteenage.com.