Foundations of Special Education
Category: Emotional and Behavioral Disorders
Topic: Teaching Children with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders
Becoming a Therapeutic Teacher for Students With Emotional and Behavioral Disorders
Brian J Abrams. Teaching Exceptional Children. Reston: Nov/Dec 2005. Vol. 38, Iss. 2; pg. 40
Like the students with whom they work, teachers of children with emotional or behavioral disorders face an enormous amount of stress. High levels of “burnout” of EBD teachers are often the result of the amount of stress that they face on a daily basis. Becoming a “Therapeutic Teacher” can help the students and teacher manage their stressors, their environment, and will ultimately to succeed academically. The article discusses how to become a “therapeutic teacher” for EBD students in order to accommodate both their academic and social needs.
*Note: Format of the article is reflected similarly in this review.
EBD Student and Teacher Stressors
EBD students bring a multitude of behaviors into a classroom. Successfully teaching these students can be a challenge. They are often dealing with depression, poor self-esteem, extreme anxiety, and a poor home environment. As a result, EBD students respond negatively to school, to their peers, and to the adults charged with instructing them. They often have limited insight into their behavior(s), and exhibit poor self-control coupled with fear, rage, and/or grief. “The behavioral and social deficits of these students are often met with anger and punishment from teachers who react to their behavior rather than understanding the whole person.”
Teacher stressors include unrealistic expectations of themselves and /or their students; a lack of administrative and/or community support; the old “too many tasks and not enough time;” and the increased emphasis on accountability as a result of standardized testing. Many teachers are unprepared and lack the skill to deal w/ this population, says the article. The end result is often a very tense classroom where little time is spent teaching and learning, and instead is spent on checking or managing off-task behavior.
The article goes on to identify the following characteristics of a therapeutic teacher, and how to go about being a therapeutic teacher for EBD students, helping them to succeed academically.
What is a Therapeutic Teacher?
• Attitudes of Therapeutic Teachers
o Positive attitude is essential for being a therapeutic teacher
o Create environment that meets academic and social needs for EBD
o Recognize importance of managing own stress, and develop effective stress-coping skills.
o Highly self-aware and self-confident
• Understanding Students with EBD
o Show respect for each student’s dignity, even when behaving antisocially
o Understand the frustrations and anxiety that are triggering negative behavior and avoid reacting with fear or anger
o Positive classroom climate of trust and rapport with students
o Defuse tension in the classroom
o Establish order, structure, and consistency
o Class rules are enforced with positive and negative consequences
o Preventative discipline
• Helping Students Experience Success
o Well organized
o Clear, realistic, positive expectations of yourself and your students
o Recognize each student’s talents, values, and strengths in order to create a curriculum that is relevant to their lives
o Implement students’ individual learning styles where appropriate
o Make the students feel safe!
• Have realistic expectations of what you can achieve; don’t try to be perfect
Becoming a Therapeutic Teacher
• Becoming Aware of Your Expectations
• Improving Instructional Skills – use a variety of assessments and ongoing adaptation of lesson plans for variety
• Improving Communication Skills
• Helping Students Manage Stress and understand their own emotions
• Managing Own Stress
• Continuing to Grow as a Teacher and a Person
• Promote dignity in the classroom; communicate your faith in your students