Bullying in the classroom is nothing new, but it seems like this generation has been taking it to a new level. There is a student I am worried about, but he won't tell me what happened/who is doing it to him even though I have asked him repeatedly. I asked his other teachers and they don't know either, but it's painfully obvious to us that something is going on at school. Any suggestions?
Middle school students can be especially vicious, but all children bully. It is a natural part of our society. As children grow, they are supposed to learn how to interact with others. Unfortunately, there are too many bullies in our society. When children see adults acting as bullies, they model the behavior. Teachers who strong-arm children are teaching children how to strong-arm others.
I think the most important thing is to let someone else at school know that you are concerned. Whether it is you administrator or a building counselor or a resource officer. It is important that you share this information with someone who can try to get to the bottom of the issue.
Aside from your concerns about the young man, you might also be concerned about more drastic complications. Students involved in seemingly random acts of school violence are quite often the victims of bullying and ostracism. You mention that other teachers have noticed a problem with the young man. Have you discussed your concerns with administration? I know all this sounds over the top; but a student in a district adjacent to mine was recently involved in a shooting incident, after which it was determined that the student had been the subject of relentless bullying. This case seems to cry for some sort of intervention. The young man may resent it at first; but one must consider the longer term consequences of not acting, as opposed to momentary discomfiture for the child.
First, I would caution against going to the parents yourself. You say that you don't know what or who, and it's quite possible the what or the who is a parent or someone close to the student. Second, I would ask what your school policy is with regard to reporting concerns about the student. Our school prefers that we apprise the counselor of any concerns, and then allow her to follow up on it as that's what she is trained to do.
Talk to counselors and let them know what is going on. Sometimes they are better at getting kids to open up (and sometimes not, I know). And the parents have a right to know you have concerns so they can be on the lookout too, and you might ask them about the student's online activities, so they can be on the lookout for bullying on MySpace or Facebook, or to check text messages.
Since you don't know what is going on, you can't rule out actual physical abuse, so the sooner you bring in help, the better it will be for all involved.
Kids aren't going to tell. They don't want to be seen as rats or as little babies who run to teachers.
The only real hope in my opinion is to try to enlist the help of his friends, if any. They may have some knowledge of what's going on and they might be more willing to help since their own masculinity or toughness isn't being called into question if they ask for help for someone else.
I have also noticed an increase in bullying at the middle school where I teach. It is very sad. I had a similar situation at the beginning of this year. If talking with the student yourself is not getting you any answers try to find an adult on campus whom he is close to. Possibly a coach, school counselor or other teacher. Maybe he will confide in one of them. Best of luck.
Bullying is always a pain, often as in your case the kid wont fess up to who is doing it. In this situation i would observe very closely the classroom atmosphere and keep an extra close eye on ALL students, as often it is more than one. The only problem you have then is that the kids will often try to do it when no one is around, you can always try to reel in another one of the kids to watch out for his mate and rat in the bully.
As a kid myself i often find other kids to be the best utensil for stopping bullying, the bully is often popular in most cases and it is painfully obvious to most kids that the bullying is going on. Its a simple case of trail and error in most situations.