In order to become a better ally to all students in my classroom, I went to the NCTE website to search for ways to support bullies. As expected, the search didn’t yield many results that were explicitly directed at that issue, but I think that the techniques we use to be an ally to all of our students can challenge bullying behavior and create a safer classroom. Here are some takeaways from the resources I found:
- Curate an inclusive classroom atmosphere. By acting as a role-model of ally behavior, you set an example for students to follow. Use pronouns that students are comfortable with. As an English teacher, try to include texts that portray a diverse set of backgrounds, and examine the way that language either affirms or challenges cultural norms of race, gender, sexuality, religion, etc.
- Address bullying behavior when you see it, especially in the form of “micro-aggressions” — behaviors, intentional or otherwise that reinforce cultural norms that discriminate. We experience behaviors on a daily basis, and see them in our classrooms, that promulgate bullying behavior. Take advantage of your content, English in my case, and the opportunities it has to engage in the conversation about creating safe spaces. Almost all texts will provide this opportunity if you challenge the assumptions that the text makes about cultural norms. Note: you can do this without sacrificing your integrity or your student’s trust by playing the “Devil’s advocate.” Avoid consistently choosing one side of an argument, but present the pros and cons of both sides. Even if you disagree with a side, you create safer spaces by acknowledging their strengths and your own bias.
- Use the many resources available online and through various student-advocacy and teacher organizations to learn about marginalized groups that face bullying. The internet has provided instant access to innumerable chances to become more educated on the challenges that students face. By becoming more aware teachers are better able to empathize with their students and to act as a firewall to bullying behavior. And, this philosophy is not limited to the internet–use your student’s stories, the experience of colleagues, and your interactions outside of the classroom to develop empathy and techniques to combat bullying.
My learning on this continues, and as it does, I find more and more resources that reinforce the idea that students should not be identified by the name “Bully.” Instead, like any other student group, they are people first. By treating them as people, and by modeling that behavior towards those in your classroom, school, and community, you plant the seeds of what it looks like to be an ally instead of a bully
All resources used for these take-aways can be found by joining NCTE and searching “supporting bullies.”