Ending Bullying Requires Empathetic Teachers, Not Just Students

Teachers who learn to collaborate, resolve conflicts, and respect multiple perspectives become powerful role models for students.

The documentary Bully has forced teachers and principals to renew their efforts to find ways to end bullying in schools. Although experts have identified steps schools should take to end bullying, the broader challenge—creating a culture of empathy—remains. According to educator Vinciane Rycroft, co-founder of U.K.-based charity Mind with Heart, if teachers want to address the root of the problem they must become models of empathy, altruism, and compassion.

Rycroft writes in The Guardian that teachers with high social-emotional competence—"mindfulness"—are better able to pass traits of empathy and compassion onto their students. Mindful teachers have "a specific approach to paying attention" to students that improves their "mental focus, academic performance, emotional balance, and develops human qualities such as kindness." Mindful teachers don't simply tolerate students from diverse backgrounds but genuinely appreciate what they bring to the table.

Mind with Heart aims to simultaneously teach teachers and students how to be mindful and empathetic. When students see their teachers developing these skills, it provides a powerful example that inspires them to learn to collaborate and communicate effectively, resolve conflicts, and respect multiple perspectives.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user EaglebrookSchool