During the move to our new building, our office plant broke in half. I was heartbroken, but I put the broken half of the plant into a container of water with the hope that the plant would grow new roots. For the first few snowy months, nothing happened. No roots. Then, spring came and the weather started warming up. Seemingly overnight, my struggling plant was thriving, and all because the conditions were finally right. My plant had to be comfortable before he could really start to grow. So what does a plant have to do with bullying?

Like plants, students need the right conditions to really send out their roots and start growing. Unfortunately, many students hold back because they don’t feel comfortable in the classroom. One of the big reasons for this is bullying. Bullying can happen to any student, but English learners, struggling readers, and students with disabilities can be especially vulnerable because they may feel out of place or have low self-esteem. Luckily, you don’t have to wait for a weather change to banish bullies and strengthen your struggling student.

Signs of bullying

How can you tell if a student is being bullied? In addition to teasing or harassment from other students, here are some other signs to look for.

  • Choosing to withdraw or separate from other students.
  • Staying close to the teacher or other adult during breaks.
  • Being excluded by other students, such as being picked last in team games or eating alone at lunch.
  • Shyness and having difficulty speaking up in class and seem anxious or insecure.
  • Showing deterioration in school work.
  • Making excuses to avoid interacting with peers.
  • Showing a loss of appetite.
  • Appearing tired because of trouble sleeping.

Ways to bully-proof your students

Bullies most often victimize students with low self-esteem. One of the best ways to bully-proof your students and help them feel comfortable in the classroom is to build their sense of self worth. Try these tips for building students’ self-esteem.

  • Greet students at the door each morning and give them praise or say something positive. Be sincere! This will help students see the classroom as a safe and positive place.
  • Be as observant of good behavior as you are of bad behavior. Constructive criticism is important, but make sure you also acknowledge and reinforce effort as often as possible.
  • Give specific praise instead of general praise. This reinforces good behavior and gives students something concrete to build their self-esteem on.
  • Call each student’s parent or guardian to give praise. This will help to develop a positive connection between home and school.
  • Post students’ work. Posting work can show students that their work is just as valuable as the work completed by the other students in the class.
  • Give students a safe environment to practice skills. Bullied students can be shy and unwilling to speak up in class, so supplemental one-on-one instruction is important for practicing new skills.

For more tips on bolstering students’ self-esteem, look here.

To learn more about how Imagine Learning English provides effective and encouraging one-on-one instruction,  click here.