Doing right by victims of bullying

Hello! I’m in my first year of teaching and I have a couple of students who are being bullied verbally everyday by a group of older boys. Of course, I’ve been working on putting an end to it, but instead of helping my bullied students, the boys have just added me and another new teacher to their list of targets. They are not my students so I can’t directly punish them and their own teacher wouldn’t do anything about it. And their parents are busy rich people who couldn’t be bothered. Any advice?

There’s a book you need to read. The Are Word by Dave Hingsbuger is an amazing practical guide to helping victims of bullying. It’s short, easy to read, and has practical techniques that actually help people. (He wrote it for those who work with people with intellectual disabilities, but what he says is broadly applicable to everyone.)

Some things I think it’s important to acknowledge about this kind of situation (and this is part of what Dave Hingsburger discusses in his book):

  • You might not be powerful enough to make the bullies stop
  • The victims are almost certainly not powerful enough to make the victims stop
  • There are a lot of things you can do for your students, whether or not you can stop the bullies
  • Your students need you, and it’s important to be there for them

Be careful about your ego:

  • You probably want to see yourself as someone who stops bullying
  • Most teachers decent enough to care about vulnerable kids feel that way
  • This can lead to some bad consequences when there are bad things going on that you can’t stop
  • Sometimes teachers who want to believe that they are solving bullying end up talking themselves out of acknowledging bullying when they can’t fix it
  • Or worse, sometimes they convince themselves that teaching victims social skills or other responses will fix bullying
  • That ends up hurting victims really badly, and making them feel like it’s their fault and/or that no adults care very much about what’s happening to them.
  • Don’t do that to their students
  • Acknowledge what’s happening to your students, even when it hurts to admit to yourself that something bad is happening that neither you nor they can fix

Even when you are not powerful enough to control the behavior of bullies, there are a lot of other things you can and should do to help your students. I’ve written before about things adults can often do to help victims of bullying.

tl;dr: Teachers can’t always stop bullying; they can always do things that are at least somewhat helpful to victims of bullying. One of the most important things you can do is to be honest with yourself and your students about the situation. _The Are Word_ by Dave Hingsburger is an incredibly helpful book for anyone who wants to support victims of bullying.