School violence is a concern for many new and veteran teachers. One factor that was revealed in the Columbine massacre along with other events of school violence is that in most instances other students knew something about the plans. We as teachers need to try and tap into this and other resources at our disposal to try and prevent acts of violence within our schools.
1. Take Responsibility Both Inside Your Classroom and BeyondWhile most teachers feel that what happens in their classroom is their responsibility, less take the time to involve themselves in what goes on outside of their classroom. In between classes, you should be at your door monitoring the halls. Keep your eyes and ears open. This is a time for you to learn a lot about your and other students. Make sure that you are enforcing school policy at this time, even though this can sometimes be difficult. If you hear a group of students cursing or teasing another student, say or do something. Do not turn a blind eye or you are tacitly approving of their behavior.
2. Don't Allow Prejudice or Stereotypes in Your ClassroomSet this policy on the first day. Come down hard on students who say prejudicial comments or use stereotypes when talking about people or groups. Make it clear that they are to leave all of that outside the classroom, and it is to be a safe place for discussions and thought.
3. Listen to "Idle" ChatterWhenever there is "downtime" in your classroom, and students are just chatting, make it a point to listen in. Students do not have and should not expect a right to privacy in your classroom. As stated in the introduction, other students knew at least something about what the two students were planning at Columbine. If you hear something that puts up a red flag, jot it down and bring it to your administrator's attention.
4. Get Involved With Student-Led Anti-Violence OrganizationsIf your school has such a program, join in and help. Become the club sponsor or help facilitate programs and fundraisers. If your school does not, investigate and help create one. Getting students involved can be a huge factor in helping prevent violence. Examples of different programs include peer education, mediation, and mentoring.
5. Educate Yourself on Danger Signs
There are typically many warning signs that show up before actual acts of school violence occur. Some of these include:
- Sudden lack of interest
- Obsessions with violent games
- Depression and mood swings
- Writing that shows despair and isolation
- Lack of anger management skills
- Talking about death or bringing weapons to school
- Violence towards animals
A study of the individuals who have committed acts of school violence were found to have both depression and suicidal tendencies. The combination of these two symptoms can have terrible effects.
6. Discuss Violence Prevention With Students
If school violence is being discussed in the news, this is a great time to bring it up in class. You can mention the warning signs and talk to students about what they should do if they know someone has a weapon or is planning violent acts. Combating school violence
should be a combined effort with students, parents, teachers, and administrators.
7. Encourage Students to Talk About ViolenceBe open to student conversations. Make yourself available and let students know that they can talk with you about their concerns and fears about school violence. Keeping these lines of communication open is essential to violence prevention.
8. Teach Conflict Resolution and Anger Management Skills
Use teachable moments to help teach conflict resolution. If you have students disagreeing in your classroom, talk about ways that they can resolve their problems without resorting to violence. Further, teach students ways to manage their anger. One of my best teaching experiences
dealt with this. I allowed a student who had anger management issues the ability to "cool off" when necessary. The ironic thing was that after he had the ability to remove himself for a few moments, he never did. In the same way, teach students to give themselves a few moments before reacting violently.
9. Get Parents InvolvedJust as with students, keeping lines of communication open with parents is very important. The more that you call parents and talk with them, the more likely it is that when a concern arises you can effectively deal with it together.
10. Take Part in School Wide InitiativesServe on the committee that helps develop how school staff should deal with emergencies. By being actively involved, you can assist with the creation of prevention programs and teacher trainings. These should not only help teachers become aware of warning signs but also provide them with specific directions on what to do about them. Creating effective plans that all staff members understand and follow is one key to help prevent school violence.