With bullying on a continuous rise, parents often look to teachers for help with a solution. School is basically where it all starts, so parents want to know how the teachers will handle any bullying incidences that happen at the school. This can be a tough position to be in when you’re a teacher. Bullying doesn’t have an easy solution and with cyber bullying, it’s nearly impossible for teachers, school staff, or even parents to monitor what is happening in the virtual hallways of the internet.
Preparing for the talk:
As a faculty member, you would already be familiar with how your school handles an incident involving bullying. Parent’s can be a little unpredictable though and will often have many questions you haven’t thought to prep for. A few tips:
- Know the questions parents tend to ask principals, they could be similar to those questions parents ask you.
- Familiarize yourself with your local anti-bullying laws, guidebooks, and policy documents. This shows you're informed and take the matter seriously.
- If you haven’t already, take some time to learn about your district's policies. This way you can explain how teachers are trained on bullying and how students are expected to behave.
One critical thing to remember before addressing the parent or responding to a parent’s worry is: what role do teachers in your district play in terms of anti-bullying mediation? Not all schools encourage teachers to get involved, some want the principal to deal with these kinds of situations or may even hire a counselor for such incidences.
If you—the teacher—work in a district that hires counselors to deal with anti-bullying efforts, then you must first consult with these personnel, before engaging parents.
Address the situation:
You may have no idea how parents of a bullying victim will react to a situation, but you can count on them wanting to know how you will prevent it from happening again. This means you must fully explain how you manage your classroom to make students feel safe. It’s also recommended that if your school has a policy on bullying prevention you share it with the parents, this helps show parents you are willing to keep all lines of communication open with them.
Remember, when parents want to get involved it means they care. Teachers should look at parents as a partner in helping children develop emotional and social skills. In turn, this will help reduce behaviours that lead to bullying.
Engaging the parents:
Helping monitor bullying doesn’t and can’t just fall on one person or side, everyone involved in any bullying incident needs to learn how to work together and play an active part in resolving the issue. So, when a parent asks what the teacher or school staff is going to do about it, start considering the parent in your anti-bullying planning. The student’s parents are the outside-of-school influence and mediator, and therefore parents must be included.
Teachers should encourage parents to understand that they, the parent, also have the power to steer and mentor identified bullies away from negative behaviours; and that they too can act as a first point of contact outside of the home when the victim needs someone.
With bullying being a touchy topic from every perspective—the bully’s family, the victim’s parent and family, or the teacher—it will can be difficult to guide emotionally invested parents to address the scenario, the reason for the altercation, and how to respond appropriately. When the parent first comes to you with their concern, listen with empathy to what they have to say. This will help defuse some of the built-up tension, it will also help the parent understand that you’re there as their partner in this, not their enemy or “superior”.
Teachers need to help parents understand that in a difficult moment like this, the mediator—parent and teacher—must act with a level head. It is not fair to harshly scold the bully without fully understanding the situation, and it’s not fair to the victim when the mediator acts in an irrational behaviour. These kinds of actions can add unwanted embarrassment, anger, and anxiety to the situation.
Finally, don’t be afraid to encourage the parent to get involved in monthly PTA meetings, or to take part in National Bullying Prevention Month. Many time stories of similar situations are shared at these kinds of gatherings, and hearing the stories directly from those impacted and learning what worked and what didn’t work when trying to fix the problem will make a strong impact on your students’ parents and how they address bullying moving forward.
How do you prevent bullying in your classroom? How do you involve the parents in the process? Share how you address and resolve bullying in your school in the comments section below.