Teachers need to comprehend psychology of bullying so they can tackle it in a proactive manner
Share this article:
By Henry Bantjez
Let’s call him Lerato. A handsome, tall 16-year-old boy whose left eye twitches when he speaks (this is called a nervous tic, caused by stress).
I tell him to sit up straight.
“I can’t hear you Lerato,” I say, raising my voice. “Speak up. Look at me. Tell me what happened today. I can see something is wrong.”
He is shaking. His pupils are dilated, a droplet of sweat running down his left temple. A blackened eye.
Lerato’s perception of reality is on the verge of being altered by two bullies at school, and teachers whom I suspect are not emotionally fit to either help, or notice that he has become suicidal at the speed of light.
There are hundreds of programmes that teach children how to deal with bullies. Coping skills. Life skills. But what about our teachers? I suspect, and I am making an educated guess, that our teachers do not have the psychological training (or adequate coaching, at least) to detect the warning signs, to practice next-level mindfulness for the cognitive behavioural traits needed to isolate bullying situations already playing out at schools. This is crucial for prevention programming and effective interventions.
Bullying prevention requires emotional fitness from teachers.
In order to eradicate bullying in schools, don’t start with the bullies, or the victims. Start with the teachers who have the power to deal with this rising monster.
Measurable interventions should be in place and teachers themselves can form research groups that will determine what the estimated rate of bullying was prior to any intervention or anti-bullying strategies to make more sense of their reality at their schools. This makes it easy to see what is working and what is not. This should be accompanied by clear guidelines and codes of conduct around bullying, reporting it and its repercussions, which can only be strengthened by teachers.
“There is often a perception among people that if they report a case they will be victimised,” says Outeniqua High School principal Christo Vorster.
“Often the pupil just wants someone to listen … Teachers must act firmly, but also with a soft heart. If the teacher shows compassion for our pupils, they will report bullying behaviour,” he says.
Christo says it is essential that the code of conduct of his school specifically refers to dealing with the bully and the victim. The path of restorative justice must be walked with both parties.
Let me break it down for you. If teachers do not empathetically and emotionally comprehend the psychology of bullying behaviour, they will not be equipped to deal with it in a proactive manner. And there is a silent but treacherous cyberbullying that is gaining momentum which needs not only to be addressed by teachers, but controlled. Reactive intervention is the last thing we need and it is perpetuated by a lack of life coaching.
Teachers need to be constantly supervising students and watching for bullying situations.
If bullying is suspected, it’s important to intervene immediately. Parents also need to watch and supervise activities to make sure that interactions are positive. Teach kids that bullying is unacceptable, and urge them to confide in parents, teachers, or friends if a situation arises. Kids also need to know that they should intervene if they ever see bullying happen.
*Henry Bantjez (M.Psych) is a Behavioural Therapist and Life Coach.
**The views expressed here are not those of The Star or IOL.