Teacher’s Characteristics that Promote Positive Classroom Behavior in Emotionally Troubled and Acting-Out Students
by: Carmen Y. Reyes
Psycho-education is an educational approach for managing emotionally troubled and acting-out students that is based on the principle that students can grow socio-emotionally and can learn how to self-control their behaviors. Psycho-educational interventions are skills-based, where socio-emotional skill building is the key intervention. Psycho-education is multidisciplinary, incorporating perspectives and techniques from disciplines such as psychology, sociology, and social work. Psycho-education challenges teachers to be versatile in current psychological and child guidance techniques. In schools, psycho-educational techniques can be adapted for use with practically any child, at any age or skill level.
In the psycho-educational classroom, we believe that when a single set of strategies becomes the only one that the teacher knows and applies to deal with students having difficulty with emotional and/or behavioral self-control (one size fits all), the stage is set for limited effectiveness and teacher’s discouragement. For example, a behavior management intervention structured exclusively around rewards and environmental control fails to explain and address each child’s unique socio-emotional needs, offering only a very narrow view of the problem and few available options or solutions. This does not mean that teachers should avoid behavior modification techniques in the classroom; it simply means that behavior modification is only one of the many options available to teachers.
Psycho-educational teachers believe that there are multiple options for every situation, and the more child guidance theories, methods, and interventions teachers know, the broader our understanding of the problem behavior and the more effective we are in applying skilled individualized techniques for each particular child.
Characteristics of Psycho-educational Teachers:
1. Psycho-educational teachers go slowly to build success, thinking of making a slight change each day, not a big one. They always keep in mind that little changes together make a big change at the end.
2. Psycho-educational teachers accept that change takes time and that each child is responsible for his or her behavioral change.
3. Psycho-educational teachers choose to perceive children’s problem behaviors as challenges, not threats. The psycho-educational teacher’s motto is “I choose to be challenged by this child’s behavior.”
4. Psycho-educational teachers are “cool reactors,” avoiding reacting emotionally to students’ disruptive behaviors.
5. In each disruptive event, psycho-educational teachers look for opportunities to teach students how to handle their emotions and behavior.
6. They do not personalize the disruptive behavior and stay calm throughout the disruptive event.
7. They are flexible and capable of adjusting to each specific child.
8. Psycho-educational teachers understand that, if we want the disruptive student to learn new behaviors, then we need to teach explicitly those behaviors.
9. They show the child that they believe in him or her, and never give up on a child, no matter how challenging the behavior.
10. Psycho-educational teachers see problem behaviors as a reflection of children’s inability to cope with stress and conflict in an age-appropriate and productive way; in other words, disruptive children are deficient in social problem solving skills. Psycho-educational teachers analyze problem behavior using problem solving techniques and give options to students for solving social problems.
11. Psycho-educational teachers teach social problem solving skills; that is, searching for information, generating alternative courses of actions, weighing the alternatives with respect to the outcome, and selecting and implementing an appropriate plan of action.
12. Psycho-educational teachers use behavior specific language (description of the problem behavior), not evaluative remarks. In changing behavior, they coach, not criticize.
13. Psycho-educational teachers coach children by presenting a set of instructions for appropriate behaviors and then having the child rehearse those behaviors while the teacher provides verbal feedback.
14. They detach from the problem behavior, discussing the behavior without engaging, blaming, or accusing the student.
15. Psycho-educational teachers do not focus on causes, or where the child has been, but on goals, or where we want the child to go.
16. They focus on the child’s competencies (strengths) instead of his deficits or weaknesses. In changing behavior, they consider and use the child’s strengths.
17. Psycho-educational teachers empower the child by focusing the child on successes rather than failure.
18. Psycho-educational teachers focus on the possible and changeable.
19. They do not bring up old issues, focusing on the here and now.
20. Psycho-educational teachers do not use language that implies that the child has no choice; for example, “You must…” or “You have to…” They train the child in using the language of choice, e.g., “I choose to do _____ because I want _____.” Psycho-educational teachers help students understand that they have the choice of behavioral change.
21. Psycho-educational teachers give students ownership of the social problem they have created.
22. Psycho-educational teachers rely primarily on preventive discipline; they are proactive, and plan ahead.
About the Author
Carmen Y. Reyes, MSE, has more than twenty years of experience as a self-contained special education teacher, resource room teacher, and educational diagnostician. Carmen has taught at all levels, from kindergarten to post secondary. Carmen is considered an expert in the application of psycho-educational behavior management strategies, and in alternative teaching techniques for students with learning or behavior problems. To download Carmen’s free Education and Teaching eBook, Psycho-Educational Skills for Managing Students with Recurrent Behavior Problems: Cognitive-Emotive Interventions, go to:
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