Monitoring Potential Targets

March 19th, 2016

In my last post, I talked about signs that might give educators clues that a student might be a victim of bullying. This issue, I’d like to go over some steps educators can take to help PREVENT potential targets from being bullied.

Remember, bullies tend to focus on kids who are perceived to be “different”: the student who is shorter or smaller, the student who looks weaker, the overweight student, the student who is new to school, the student who might speak with an accent, the boy student who may exhibit feminine tendencies, etc..

And bullies focus on those kids who, for whatever reason, have less developed social skills and therefore lack a large social network.
As such, teachers should be encouraged to be especially attentive to a new or isolated student. If a student shows signs of being a potential victim, teachers should encourage them to move from location to location with other students and to remain in supervised areas near adults. They can help the student identify a support network to be safe so that he or she is playing, walking, and sitting with others. And to the extent possible, teachers should minimize unsupervised time from the potential victim’s schedule.

Teachers can help a potential victim establish a network of friends by grouping the potential victim with other students who are likely to be receptive to fostering new relationships. For example, a simple step a teacher can take is to make sure this student has someone to sit with at lunch. Group projects that require students have to work together can be an effective way to help students develop a sense of cooperation.

Some schools have instituted an informal “support committee” for loners or those deliberately excluded. Those on this “committee” are
encouraged to include a student who consistently sits or stands alone.
In terms of the student who is new to a school, many schools have instituted a “welcome committee” to make a new student feel welcome and accepted. Obviously, students selected for these type of assignments should be those who have exhibited the maturity and sensitivity to handle the tasks assigned to them. They should be made to feel special for being given this responsibility, and should be commended when they take positive steps to achieve the desired result, namely, making their fellow student feel included.

In all these situations, teachers should observe how a potential victim interacts with others and guide them in this regard. This is where a counselor can be invaluable; you can work with students who are identified to improve social skills and assertiveness training and help to involve potential victims in activities that build self-confidence.

Perhaps the best bit of advice I got when I was a new teacher came from my principal. My very first day as a teacher, she pulled me aside and told me that an educator had to play an active role in building a student’s self-esteem. “The most important thing a teacher can do is make kids feel good about themselves.” This adage has stuck with me all these years, and it has a profound impact on a school’s efforts to minimize incidents of bullying: a self-confident student is one who is far less likely to be targeted by a bully.