Let's be honest. You know who they are. You see it. You KNOW they aren't nice. You KNOW they exclude, they trash talk, they send mean texts, they laugh at other girls (or sometimes just one girl), they pick people apart, they often act innocent in front of adults, they get their posse of mean girls to gang up on someone. We as teachers are the front lines. We CAN and SHOULD be stopping them. Read on to find 9 ways that you can stop this behavior!
DISCLAIMER: THIS LIST IS IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
1. First and foremost, get support for the victim(s) of the mean girl behavior. Seek out whatever help you can find. School psychologists, social workers, their parents, yourself, child and youth workers and other community supports. They need empowerment and they need to know how to get it. They need to know this is not their fault and that they are worthy, loved and important.
3. Divide and conquer. Break up the posse. Whether it is first graders or sixth graders, separate them. Move their desks, don't let them work together. Organize activities at recess for them so that they aren't always together. This isn't a permanent thing but until you can get the mean girl attitudes under control, the mean girl supporters need to be separated.
4. Call their parents. This is not an easy conversation and you will get mixed responses. Some parents will act shocked and might not even believe you. Some will even become upset with you. Some parents will be extremely supportive and admit that they knew their child acted this way. No matter the response, parents need to know. You might be surprised at how quickly the behavior changes.
5. Speak directly about the behavior with the whole class. It is not just an issue for the mean girls and their victim(s). It is everyone's issue. Hold community circles (class meetings) where people can be open and share their feelings. Maybe the people who are impacted by the behavior will share. Maybe they won't. But they are listening.
6. Talk privately with the girl(s) who are impacted. Let them share their feelings, listen the their ideas for how to stop it, or why they think it is happening. Reassure them that it is not their fault and that it doesn't define their self worth. They need to know you are there for them.
7. Confront them if you see it happening. Don't be a bystander. Last week I watched as 3 fifth grade girls turned their back on another and completely ignored her. Like the obvious ignoring, where the girl was trying to talk to them and they talked over top of her and pretended she wasn't there. I walked up to them and said, "Excuse me. I see what you're doing. And as an outsider looking in, I feel sick. The way you're treating that girl is disgusting. You're treating her like she doesn't matter and she does matter. You should be ashamed." And then I walked away....about 50 feet or so. I turned around to see that the girls were talking to the one they were ignoring and all of a sudden they were hugging. I couldn't believe how my words made them reconsider their actions.
8. Start the year off right. Start with community building activities right away. Encourage your students to be open with each other and with you. Teach empathy and respect for differences. This is probably the most important thing you can do to PREVENT mean girl behavior.
9. This might seem obvious but....DO NOT be a bystander. I have witnessed teachers shrug off the behavior. Young girls commit suicide over mean girl behavior. DO NOT be a bystander.
My goal for writing this post is that hopefully at least one girl out there will be helped....maybe even many! Please share this message so that we can stop or better yet, prevent the behavior.