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How SEL Can Help Teachers Prevent Teen Bullying

A teenage girl looks sadly out her window while holding her smartphoneBullying remains one of the most significant issues educators face daily in the classroom. Teachers and school administrators continually search for effective strategies to prevent teen bullying that typically involves one or more of three core elements: unwanted aggressive behavior, observed or perceived power imbalance and the repetition of bullying behaviors.

Those core elements come from the official definition of bullying determined by the federal government. Federal officials also have conducted research showing alarmingly high bullying rates continue in today’s schools despite decades of focus on the issue. They report that about 20% of students between the ages of 12 and 18 experience bullying, with 19% of those in grades 9-12 reporting that bullying happens on school grounds.

Fortunately, one of the more effective approaches to reducing bullying has emerged in recent years. It involves using social emotional learning teaching strategies to help prevent teen bullying.

What is Social Emotional Learning?

Social and emotional learning (SEL) refers to how children and adults manage their emotions and develop empathy. Students who learn through SEL develop skills to maintain positive relationships, create healthy identities, achieve personal and collective goals and make responsible decisions. SEL also can help students develop better conflict-resolution skills.

Studies have shown SEL improves student academic performance and provides them with valuable life skills. According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), SEL “can help address various forms of inequity and empower young people and adults to co-create thriving schools and contribute to safe, healthy, and just communities.”

Using SEL to Prevent Teen Bullying

SEL can play a crucial role in addressing and preventing bullying behavior. SEL can reduce bullying by providing teens with the tools to contribute to a positive and inclusive environment. SEL focuses on improvements in the following areas, all of which help students find better ways to resolve conflicts and reduce bullying incidents:

Empathy and Perspective-Taking

SEL programs often focus on empathy and perspective-taking skills. These abilities enable individuals to understand and share the feelings of others, including those who may be targets of bullying. By promoting empathy, SEL helps students recognize the impact of their actions on others and may discourage them from bullying behaviors.

Emotional Regulation

Bullying often stems from unresolved anger, frustration or other negative emotions. SEL equips individuals with techniques to recognize and manage these emotions. Students can become less likely to engage in impulsive or aggressive behaviors by learning to regulate their emotions.

Relationship Building

SEL fosters positive relationships and social skills. Through SEL, people learn how to communicate effectively, resolve conflicts peacefully and collaborate. By nurturing healthy relationships and a sense of belonging, SEL helps create a supportive social environment where bullying is less likely to occur.

Responsible Decision-Making

SEL promotes responsible decision-making by encouraging students to consider the consequences of their actions—not only on others but on themselves. This includes understanding the impact of bullying behaviors and choosing more constructive ways to resolve conflicts and express emotions. By cultivating personal responsibility, SEL helps individuals make choices that contribute to a safe and respectful environment.

Fresno Pacific University’s SEL Courses for Educators

Fresno Pacific University offers a course on Addressing Bullying & Aggression for SEL as part of its continuing education courses designed for educators. Teachers can take the course as a standalone or use the credits to earn a Social Emotional Learning Certificate from Fresno Pacific University. In either case, credits earned in the course can serve as professional development credits many states require to maintain a teaching license.

The course also expands teachers’ knowledge of the uses of SEL, focusing on the five fundamental competencies of SEL: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and decision-making. Teachers address self-regulation, frustration tolerance, aggression, passivity and responses to life’s challenges and difficulties.

By the end of the course, teachers can recognize and respond to students who experience violence and aggression at school or home. They can identify and develop appropriate responses to students who display excessive aggression and violence when faced with conflicts and challenges.

Educators also learn how physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect can impact developmental, social and academic functioning. They also learn how to create strategies for prevention, intervention and support measures in the classroom.

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