Act quickly and appropriately

Online classrooms have exposed teachers to cyberbullying from their students. How can schools deal with this problem?

July 25, 2020 03:32 pm | Updated 03:32 pm IST

Bullying in schools is bad enough but, with the advent of social media, it has taken on another brutal avatar: cyberbullying. Sadly, the toxicity doesn’t seem to end. Today, even teachers are being victimised by their students.

Many teachers say that online classes have ruined classroom decorum. Students, they claim, often take on fake IDs to make inappropriate remarks during class. There are reports of students sleeping in class, giving themselves celebrity names, morphing teachers’ pictures to troll them, switching off their cameras and changing their account name to hurl abuses or send inappropriate memes to teachers.

Being bullied by one’s students can make educators re-think their decision to become a teacher. But e-learning is here to stay and cyberbullying is a pressing issue that needs to be addressed. Here are some possible solutions that can help schools and teachers:

1. Master virtual classroom management: Students are able to take control of the online classroom because they are tech-savvy. Therefore, teachers have to equip themselves with the skills required for the respective learning platform and know its nuances. There might be a bit of difficulty in the beginning, but one can ace it with a bit of exploring and practice.

For instance, if you are using Zoom, learn how to mute and unmute participants, to share documents, to stop annotations, to manage the chatbox, and so on. You can also check the disabling options and disable whatever is necessary to avoid any disturbances from the participants. The common complaint of students changing their names while in class can be easily resolved by this. Don’t hesitate to ask your colleagues, friends, or family for help.

2. Maintaining decorum: The role of managing mischief cannot be single-handedly managed by a teacher. The school must step in and assign a co-teacher to watch the students. In case such extended support is lacking, schools can always resort to stringent rules. As there is a complete shift to virtual classrooms, there also needs to be a revised framework of behaviour and discipline guidelines, which has to be shared with both students and their parents. Outline what is acceptable and unacceptable and the consequences for the latter. Make both parties acknowledge the guidelines; this will make students adhere to the rules and parents accept the consequences. Most importantly, follow through with the consequences so that students take the protocols, and the teachers, seriously. Also, revisit the guidelines every 2-3 months to check if any changes are needed as virtual learning is still evolving.

3. Stay connected with students: Take immediate action in case of unruliness. Use private chat to communicate with students instead of public shaming. Whatever the nature of the offence, be positive and respectful. Quick action will show students that the teacher is in control. If necessary, include both parents and school authorities in a meeting with the students.

E-learning is helping teachers break new ground. Don’t lose heart when your students exhibit challenging behaviours. Instead, try to understand the reasons and take quick and appropriate action.

The writer is co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer at Learning Matters Pvt. Ltd, a Bengaluru-based ed-tech company.

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