From “The Importance of Teacher Self-Awareness in Working with Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders” by Richardson and Shupe, Teaching Exceptional Children, Vol. 36, No. 2, 2003, pp. 8-13. Copyright 2006 by The Council for Exceptional Children. Reprinted with permission.
The Importance of Teacher Self-Awareness in Working With Students With Emotional and Behavioral Disorders Brent G. Richardson ❈ Margery J. Shupe
What are your primary concerns in the classroom? Are you constantly involved in power struggles with some students? Do you yearn for good relationships with all your students? Are you stressed out? This article may help. The frequency and intensity of students’ emotional and behavioral disorders have increased in the past several decades (Bartollas & Miller, 1998; Knitzer, 1993; Lerner, 1995; Long, Morse, & Newman, 1996). In surveys, teachers consistently reveal that disruptive student behavior and classroom discipline are their primary educational ness is particularly important for teachers who work with students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Seldom
Management of Disruptive Behavior
Our development as teachers depends on our willingness to take stock of our own behavior.
TEACHING Exceptional Children, Vol. 36, No. 2, pp. 8-13. Copyright 2003 CEC.
Teachers revealed that disruptive student behavior and classroom discipline are their primary educational concerns.
concerns (Long, 1996a). Teachers who work with students with emotional and behavioral disorders can enhance their effectiveness and job satisfaction, mini-
mize power struggles, and build more positive relationships with children with disabilities by taking proactive steps to increase their own self-awareness. Gold and Roth (1993) identified teacher selfawareness as a key component for managing stress. Gold and Roth (1993) defined selfawareness as “a process of getting in touch with your feelings and behaviors” (p. 141). Increased self-awareness involves a more accurate understanding of how students affect our own emotional processes and behaviors and how we affect students, as well. Self-aware-
are we unaffected by their behavior. Often, these students reflect the best and worst in ourselves (Richardson, 2001). Our development as teachers depends on our willingness to take risks and regularly ask ourselves which of our own behaviors are helping or hindering our personal and professional growth. “If we could allow ourselves to become students of our own extraordinary self-education, we would be very well placed to facilitate the self-education of others” (Underhill, 1991, p. 79). This article identifies questions and strategies to help teachers become more self-aware regarding their interactions with students with behavioral and emotional disorders.
Five Key Questions to Increase Teacher Self-Awareness
1. Am I taking proactive steps to identify and defuse my own “emotional triggers”?
Cheney and Barringer (1995) asserted: “More than any other group, students with emotional and behavioral disorders appear to present problems that affect staff members on a very personal level” (p. 181). Unfortunately, teacher education does not always highlight the connection between a teacher’s selfawareness and his or her ability to build and maintain meaningful relationships with youth with emotional and behavioral disabilities. Although teachers need to learn how to recognize signs of emotional distress in their students, it is equally important to acknowledge that teachers’ own personalities, learned prejudices, and individual psychological histories have helped shape their attitudes and responses to certain behaviors (Long et al., 1996). Fritz Redl, a pioneer in working with students with emotional disturbances, emphasized that self-awareness is a key ingredient for succeeding with this population: As teachers we have a room, a group, equipment, materials, a...
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