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A Teacher's Guide to Spotting a Bully

written by: Margie • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 1/17/2012

No teacher wants to deal with bullying. Unfortunately, identifying and preventing bullying has become a routine part of many teachers’ days. Once you recognize that it is indeed a problem, the first step you must take is to identify the students responsible for the actual bullying behavior.

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    Behavior and Characteristics to Look For

    Many bullies exhibit at least some of the following behaviors and characteristics.

    The most obvious display of bullying is teasing and ridiculing other students. Bullies may be very open about it, or they may be extremely sneaky. They sometimes choose to instigate rather than act out the bullying; they may have their “followers" actually do their bullying for them.

    Many bullies are easy to anger. They are impulsive and hot-tempered, even with adults, whom they are often defiant toward.

    Many bullies have friends. In the past, it was assumed that bullies were loners that harassed their peers out of fear of rejection, but we now know that is not the case. Often, they have many supportive friends, which can greatly strengthen their bullying behavior.

    Bullies often have an inflated view of themselves. They are generally not insecure or weak, as once thought. They may use their self-assured attitude to talk themselves out of trouble.

    Many times, but not always, bullies are physically stronger than their peers and use their physical domination in their bullying.

    Traditionally, we think of bullies as being male, but as online bullying becomes more and more of a problem (view more here), we are seeing many girls engage in bullying behavior. In fact, the majority of cyberbullies are female.

    Bullies are generally not concerned with others’ feelings and do not display empathy toward their peers.

    Bullies can also be victims. Some kids that have been bullied in the past begin bullying later.

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    Be On Your Guard - One Size Does Not Fit All

    As you can see, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to bullies. That is one reason it is becoming increasingly difficult to recognize and stop them.However, as you just read, there are many red flags that teachers can use to identify bullies. The earlier a bully is recognized, the fewer children he or she is able to harass, so it is vital for teachers to watch for these warning signs and act on them.

    Please read these articles for more about bullying:

    Bullying in the Classroom

    Dealing with Bullying

    How to Prevent Bullying

4 Part Series on Bullying

This four part series on bullying addresses buly prevention, recognizing bullying behavior and looks at why some children turn to bullying.
  1. Be On the Lookout: Bullying in the Classroom
  2. A Teacher's Guide to Spotting a Bully
  3. How to Identify Kids Who Are Bullied
  4. Tips & Strategies to Help Prevent Bullying in Your Classroom