The First Days of School
What can you do, this school year, to bullyproof your classroom? Establishing a positive classroom climate where kindness prevails and everybody is included is a vital first step.
On these first days of school, as we sit down with students to establish a climate of safety, an important way to establish that feeling of safety is to state clearly and firmly that in this class, this year, everyone has a right to be safe in their feelings and in their bodies. For younger children, a statement such as "In this class we take care of each other," shows the way. For older children who are beginning to define themselves by who their friends are, we might say, "You don't have to be best friends with everyone, but you need to be friendly to all classmates." Or perhaps you might say, "In this class everyone has a right to be treated respectfully."
We can also show children what inclusive behavior will look like in our classrooms. Plan activities where children work with multiple classmates. Before the activity, model for students what friendly interactions will look like. Afterwards, reflect: "What felt friendly?" is a question you might ask.
Before lunch or recess, ask students, "How can you make sure that everyone has someone to sit with at lunch?" or "How can you make sure that everyone has someone to play with at recess?" Afterwards, ask, "What did you do that was friendly on the playground?" or "How did you include others at lunch?"
Create classroom rules with students or simply give classroom rules to students and reflect with them about how the rules might help them learn in school. Either way, it's important that the rules encompass the importance of friendliness and inclusion. Rules such as "Be kind," or "Treat everyone respectfully," establish this expectation. In Rules in School Deborah Porter describes a rule she adds to her K–1 class's student-created rules: "Everyone gets to play and learn." The author Vivian Paley famously created this rule for her kindergarten: "You can't say you can't play."
Starting the year with an expectation of friendliness and inclusion is a great beginning to a bully-free classroom.
Caltha Crowe's book, How to Bullyproof Your Classroom, offers a practical, proactive approach to bullying prevention. Learn how to create a positive classroom environment and how to respond to mean behavior before it escalates into bullying.
"Teacher-friendly from start to finish!" —Martha Hanley, Grafton, MA
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