Cultivating Empathy and Preventing Bullying in Schools
Michele Borba, Ed.D., Educational Psychologist, author, and expert in bullying prevention and character development, was interviewed on Education Talk Radio for edWeb.net‘s monthly show by Program Host Larry Jacobs along with Lisa Schmucki, edWeb founder, and Judy Galbraith, President and founder of Free Spirit Publishing. Michele, Judy, Larry, and Lisa discussed cultivating empathy and preventing bullying.
one of the most important things to keep in mind is that bullying can happen anywhere, to anyone. “There is no demographic where a child is safe,” said Michele. In fact, as wealth goes up, empathy goes down, which is why no school should forgo bullying prevention training. Bullying happens across zip codes, and should not be tolerated anywhere. Michele suggests the same turnaround plan everywhere she goes; tell the staff members how to step in, role play what stepping in looks like, and what it doesn’t look like, teach how to separate students if necessary, and set up staff members as go-to safety staff.
Learning and understanding how to cultivate empathy in children is crucial when dealing with bullying. “Empathy breeds only in an environment where there is trust and caring,” said Michele. Schools must first ensure students have an environment where they feel cared about, and then they can create the empathy in students that makes them more likely to step in and help one another. Schools can help students by teaching bystanders to become upstanders, and taking steps to change the behavior of both the victims and the bullies.
Michele also teaches kids who are victims of bullying ways to stick up for themselves, such as the CALM acronym: stay cool, assert yourself, look them in the eye, and mean what you say. This teaches kids how to maintain their confidence, rather than giving the bully any power. Bullying has no boundaries and can happen anywhere. It is important to ensure students feel safe, have clear guidelines of what is expected on school grounds, and for faculty to be trained in bullying prevention.