STAND UP AGAINST BULLYING – discussions with teachers about the topic of bullying


discussions with teachers about the topic of bullying

Realization term: September 2017 till February 2018
Evaluation: February 2018

The discussions were carried out in the project Stand up against bullying. Total participants in discussions were 37 teachers from seven countries which are involved in the project (see graph no. 1). Teachers educate students at the first and at the second level of elementary school or they teach at secondary schools or they educate adults in courses. Only two teachers teach in a village. Three-quarters of respondents are form teachers. Discussions are divided into three areas. First of them considers bullying generally – its manifestation, description of a “typical” victim and an aggressor, reasons of bullying and possibilities of its prevention from the teacher and school. The next area is focused directly on the impact of bullying on the victim and their ways of dealing with the given situation. And the last area is focused on students with disabilities/disadvantages.

Graph n. 1: The number of respondents from individual countries


Definition, forms and manifestations
Bullying can be defined as an intentional aggressive behaviour of a person or a group against peers that cannot easily defend themselves. This risky behaviour is long-term, repetitive and intentional. It may have different forms (comp. Olweus, 1993; Vágnerová, 2004; Kolář, 2001). Testimonials of teachers are based on the bullying definition and they point out that violation of individual´s rights occurs at this systematic and long-term risky behaviour. Aggressors are not able to accept otherness of their victim and they show their domination. “Systematic, repetitive, intentional harm. Children use their power to manipulate or harm others.” The forms of bullying were included by teachers in their testimonies and again they can be compared to expert texts. The basic division by aggression – means of action is the division of bullying to physical and psychological (comp. Kolář, 2011; Carr, 2002; Goodstein, 2013). Ridicule, hurt, extortion, humiliation, spitting after the victim, poaching, infamy, etc. can be classified in these forms of bullying. One of the respondents points out the difficulty of recognition of psychological bullying. Physical violence is noticed by everyone but “stupid talks” are very hardly noticeable. They take their things, hide them, make cues on stinking, manipulate others not to talk to the victim, overlooking, don´t respond to greetings and inquiries, inappropriate comments like “that´s weird” to everything the victim does…”. “.. but unfortunately, teachers don´t always see the verbal/psychological bullying.”
One of the possible manifestations of bullying is also gender superiority which was also pointed out by one of the respondents. “Boys disrespect girls at this school. Bullying is verbal, physical, emotional or psychological, domination and aggression occur.”

Typical aggressor and victim
Reasons for bullying to occur may be different. The cause of bullying may be different development, broken relationships of the aggressor. These causalities may accentuate the imperfections of the victim, which will become the cause of bullying (comp. Webster-Doyle, 2002; Kolář, 2001). On the side of the aggressor, bullying may be divided into three areas according to respondents:

  • Intrapersonal
  • Interpersonal
  • Other influences

In the first area, respondents mostly said that the student had low self-confidence. Some students reach no success and bullying enables ensuring that they are capable of achievement (Kolář, 2001). Other causes may be jealousy and desire for power or other disorders that can follow psychiatric diagnosis or a personality disorder. Some teachers significantly point out the disturbance of child´s personal development. “Emotionally parched individual desiring for love and attention of the surrounding. The financial situation of the family, physical maturity or beauty don´t play a role.”
The next area is about interpersonal relationships and their influence on the aggressor. Here teachers mostly listed bad family background – insufficient interest, aggressive behaviour patterns, broken relationships between partners with the impact on a child. “Some students have personal problems at their homes or they don´t have idols in their families…” Correlation between answers of respondents and literature are found, where insufficient love, aggression, the absence of spiritual and moral values may lead the individual to risk behaviour (comp. Kolář, 2001; Hodges, 1999). The last area is an area of reasons connected to the surrounding system – such as poverty, insufficient education. “…or they just don´t have a good education.”
It can be generally said, that any child may become a victim. Which can bring the idea that typology is then needless. “It is not simple to recognize a typical victim because victims often change according to the situation. There is not a stereotype of a typical victim. It depends on the situation.” But based on the experience of experts there can be created the most commonly repeated characteristic of a victim and reasons why was given individual bullied. The parent word could be the difference which is in many cases almost unobservable (comp. Kolář, 2001; Vacek, 2009; Pellegrini, 1999). Teachers pointed to differences in psychical areas (look, obesity, problematic skin), psychological (impulsiveness, shyness, introvert), affective (differs in their behaviour), social (untidiness, insufficient finance, weaker social background, insufficient relationships).
A potential victim of bullying may antagonize their peers and gain the reputation of “annoying”. They may be depressed and have only a few friends.”

Prevention of bullying                                                                                                   The realization of the prevention of risk behaviour – in this case of bullying, should be a common part in school facilities. The prevention should be systematic, long-term and react to needs of pupils and students but also to possibilities of a given group. Only this way it can be effective. The basis of prevention of bullying and violence at school should be the support of positive relationships between pupils. Schools and school facilities should strive for a safe environment, solidarity, tolerance among pupils, support solidarity and cooperation of children, reinforce active involvement of all pupils to school and class activities and develop their legal awareness (comp. MŠMT, 2009; Miovský, 2010; Kolář, 2011, Carr, 2002).
Many teachers point to the great significance of form teachers and other consultant workers at school that should strive together for an environment supporting healthy relationships. This activity should be supported as well by the management as other specialists and variety of projects or programs of primary prevention with this topic (similar themes may be found in scientific publications –  Kolář, 2001; Říčan, 2010).  “We have good programs for prevention of bullying and we focus on what is happening at school.” Respondents consider as important setting rules and regulations aiming against bullying. In case that bullying occurs, it should be immediately handled on the side of the victim and the aggressor. “…we have strict rules and regulations against bullying so rarely incidents occur.” “In our school, there is not a tolerant atmosphere which would allow abusive behaviour.” Interesting but not so frequent procedure is informing parents about clear and universal principles of solving bullying at school. This informing should be, from my point of view, repetitive and via personal meeting or written correspondence. “These principles must be clearly communicated to parents… and announced every pupil on the whole school gathering, in the class or by a radio.”

Impact of bullying and ways of dealing with it
Bullying is not a normal behaviour but despite it has great potential to occur at a school facility. The proof is also that most respondents recall a pupil in their class that could be easily victim.
Some of them captured their difference from others – whether it was a mental disorder, shyness or sex. “Yes, especially girls.” “I think that any shy child may become a victim.” “Yes, I think of two students who can be victims because they are afraid to say what they think. …” One of the respondents said that she has in her class directly a victim of bullying. “Yes, I have one.”

The most serious impact of bullying is on the victim. The ability to face and handle it depends on many factors like for instance the defence rate of the victim but also to which phase bullying progressed. The victim tends to truancy, school adaptation worsens, school grades, disturbed psyche of the child, sleep disorders and psychosomatic manifestations occur, the worst possible impact is then a suicide (Kolář, 1997). Teacher respondents pointed to similar manifestations and solutions of victim of bullying. Fear to attend school, then withdrawal to seclusion, avoiding, looking to the ground, reticence occurred very often but also, they pointed to psychosomatic manifestations and possible development of addiction to addictive substances. “…may lead to self-harm, may become an aggressor, or it can lead to the development of addiction to alcohol and drugs.” In comparison to a survey of students about this topic that was carried out in a project Stand up against bullying, it is important to point out that 24 % of respondents solved the situation with a help of addictive substances and 17 % with a help of medicaments (n=69) (Žáci a šikana, 2017).
That the victim becomes an aggressor is quite often case especially if the victim changes school. Given individual doesn´t want to allow being again a victim so they start to harm others. Often, they join stronger individuals so that they don´t choose them as their scapegoat (I follow my own practise where many children bullied their classmates and they had in their anamnesis experience with bullying – as a victim).
When dealing with bullying, peers and friends of a victim often play a very important role because the victim confides to them and they can deal with it then with an adult person. Also, a help of a silent majority occurs when somebody can´t watch bullying anymore so they tell it to an adult person. Pupils confide to a form teacher, psychologists or to another consultant workers at school.
From survey results (Žáci a šikana, 2017), pupils don´t actually realize that persons they confided would help them distinctly. A question can be asked here, whether they cannot imagine in that difficult situation the impact of the help or whether the higher mentioned individuals don´t know how to act in that situation.

Teacher as a victim
One of the respondents said in the answer to a question whether some of their students could be a victim of bullying “Several including the teacher.” Teachers may become a victim of bullying as well as students in their class. Many respondents after trying first few ways to solve the problem on their own would ask for help their colleagues and school management. Among procedures how to deal with the situation on their own respondents said: “I would try to “become friends” with such a person and try to help him.” “I would ignore them.” “I would use the form of discussion with the offender so that he would understand that if he is respected he should respect too.” “I would start to take appropriate steps or measurements by informing their parents…” Further, they would try to calm the situation and if it wasn´t successful they would leave the place. One of the teachers experienced also emotional extortion from students in a new workplace. “…when I observed emotional extortion I immediately asked children, what are they trying on with me and that it is inadmissible. I am consistent in keeping rules.”                                           Whether a child or a teacher becomes a victim of bullying depends very much on the school setting, but also on individual participants of the educational process. It is important to have clearly set rules, procedures, how to influence preventively but also to have set steps for dealing with bullying.

Pupils with disabilities and pupils with other type of disadvantage
Following the survey, 17 individuals that became a victim of bullying were disabled or with another disadvantage, and that is from a total of 69 victims. A great part of them were pupils with physical disabilities.
There are many factors influencing integration of a pupil with a disability or disadvantage to class collective. Personal characteristics of the pupil, parent´s attitudes, attitudes of teachers and peers belong here. It is important to acquaint pupils and employees with possible specifics that should come out from admission interview with the pupil and parents (comp. Igoa, 1995; Lechta, 2010). Unfortunately, parents aren´t often serene with their child´s disability and they want school not to inform classmates which may lead to deepening differences and incapability to accept the pupil.
A great part of respondents has in their class or among students they teach some individuals with disability or disadvantage. Most of them tried to prepare the class and the pupil for the admission to the school facility. Some of the pupils worked on papers where they tried to empathize to the person with given disability and they were trying to propose some forms of help. Other teachers try to support the class collective with a help of psychosocial games and other activities that would support accepting the pupil. They consider as important to define the limitation of given pupil and to treat him with respect and regard. “Again, according to your own example. By the way that I approach them, asking classmates for help in small things. Not to make them a poor soul but explain the limitations that they have and accept their presence as a common part.” “Students learned about pupils with disabilities in advance and were asked to treat them naturally with love and care.”
Concerning the threat of a pupil with a disability by bullying in classes, they meet sometimes according to teachers with various mockery, or they are a target of inappropriate behaviour. However, they point to the fact that it occurs only sometimes, and some have never experienced or seen such a behaviour from intact students. “No, such things I have never seen.” “I have never experienced such a situation.” A part of respondents points to hidden behaviour that is not acted in front of teachers so that it may seem that the concerned is not being harmed but the contrary is the truth.

Respondents consider bullying as an unhealthy and risky behaviour that may have various forms and may be hardly recognizable. They realized potential victims of bullying in their classes and they are trying to work with the collective actively so that negative highlighting of differences from classmates doesn´t occur. Is there is already bullying they may rely on a system that they have set in their school and they are trying to solve bullying immediately. They consider as very important prevention that should be carried out in various levels – class, school, community. They realize that the impact of bullying may be fatal for the victim. But it is important as well to help the aggressor that is a bully.
Is it very important that school facilities can preventively operate against bullying and recognize it in time and take relevant steps, which should be compiled in advance and all pedagogues should know it as well as parents and students, to solve the situation.

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Žáci a šikana. Výzkum realizovaný v rámci projektu Stand up against bullying, 2017.