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Fostering collaboration between general and special education teams can create impactful systems for managing behavior and reaching equity.

Why special educators are key to behavioral equity and inclusion


Leveraging the expertise and fostering collaboration between special and general education teams can create impactful new systems for managing behavior

Key points:

Educators today are trying to manage a new wave of student behavior, and it’s proving to be one of the toughest parts of their job.

Educators are facing an unprecedented wave of behavioral challenges in schools, leaving them emotionally drained and overwhelmed. From disruptive behavior to constant interruptions and defiance towards authority, these situations weigh heavily on a teacher’s mental and emotional well-being.

Unfortunately, educator teams have lacked the essential support needed to feel competent in addressing the escalating frequency, intensity, and prevalence of behavioral needs.

These challenges, exacerbated by the aftermath of the pandemic, extend far beyond mere discipline. They underscore deeper systemic issues, where inadequate classroom management training hampers the ability of K-12 district leaders, administrators, and teachers to address these situations successfully.

There’s a clear need for transparent communication, efficient systems, and personalized guidance around behavior to address high teacher turnover rates, which calls for an overhaul of district behavior management processes.

Fortunately, schools possess an invaluable asset in their special education (SPED) teams, equipped with the unique ability to recognize and celebrate the small victories that signify changes and growth in behavior.

These professionals handle behavior issues daily, honing their skills in fostering progress and celebrating every step forward, no matter how small.

Imagine the impact if more students within the general education setting could experience these victories firsthand. Districts can create more inclusive and equitable learning environments by prioritizing support for SPED teams and integrating their expertise into mainstream practices.

The impact of rising behavior issues on educators

Behavioral issues have a ripple effect that impacts everyone in the school community. Beyond hindering teachers’ ability to fulfill their responsibilities, these challenges shape the school’s culture and influence the well-being of students and staff.

When students get explicit instruction in emotional regulation and social problem-solving, it can empower students to navigate difficult situations and lead to more productive classroom learning. Unfortunately, 60 percent of teachers feel overwhelmed and ill-equipped to manage these situations, calling out insufficient training as a barrier to reducing disruptive behavior.

Behavioral issues are cited as the primary reason for more than half (51 percent) of teachers leaving the field, and it’s understandable why. Without the right strategies for managing student behavior, teachers feel frustrated and powerless.

To address the fatigue and isolation educators often experience when dealing with classroom behavior issues, embracing more interconnected systems and adopting a community-based approach is essential.

By prioritizing equity and inclusion in behavior management, schools ensure that every student can access the necessary solutions for success. It’s a way to cultivate a sense of belonging and support for students and empower educators to establish inclusive learning environments where every student can excel academically, socially, and emotionally.

Bridging expertise for inclusive and equitable behavior management

Behavior in schools serves as a cornerstone for promoting equity and inclusion. The strategies that benefit certain students can have positive effects across the board. A siloed approach won’t cut it. When methods successfully address the needs of a specific group grappling with behavior issues, they often work for the greater student population.

Bringing SPED teams into general educational settings is a powerful step toward bridging gaps in behavior expertise. This collaborative approach not only enhances support for students with special needs, but also fosters inclusion for all students in the learning process. By providing resources and support to integrate this knowledge, schools can empower educators to tackle behavior and classroom management challenges and cultivate more equitable, inclusive learning environments for all students.

Rethinking professional development

Prioritizing educator professional development is crucial to addressing behavior management–however, traditional methods often miss the mark by relying on fragmented tech solutions and sporadic one-day sessions. One-day professional development sessions lack lasting impact and fail to cater to the diverse needs of educators, leaving them feeling overwhelmed and undervalued. These sessions often become mere checkboxes instead of a network of support with necessary resources for proactive classroom management.

To overcome these limitations in professional development, districts should prioritize continuous, personalized training. This type of training fosters the confidence and skills necessary to effectively address behavior management challenges while also addressing issues of burnout and retention. By investing in ongoing professional growth opportunities, districts can create a more supportive and enriching learning environment for all stakeholders.

Realizing the lasting benefits of improved professional development demands time, unwavering commitment, and visionary leadership.

Changing behavior systems is not a quick fix

Just as children seek instant gratification with their actions, adults crave quick solutions to complex problems. But changing behavior systems does not happen overnight.

As strategies and disciplinary tactics evolve, educators require ongoing support and access to the most up-to-date research-based tools to adapt. This includes maintaining a positive classroom culture, implementing appropriate discipline strategies, and staying informed about advancements in classroom management.

Districts require a structured system to help educators address behavior-related situations effectively. This system should have clear protocols for reporting and handling incidents, a team-based intervention approach, and access to additional support from behavior specialists or counselors.

Investing in a comprehensive approach that combines both a dedicated team and cutting-edge technology is paramount to supporting behavior system changes in schools.

Educators need a reliable platform where they can easily access guidance and seek support to feel confident and capable when addressing various situations they encounter in the classroom. It’s not about choosing between technology or consulting teams; rather, it’s about embracing both technological innovation and human support. This combination ensures that educators have the tools and resources to feel prepared and thrive in managing classroom behavior.

Closing the divide

These efforts will have profound long-term effects. With fewer behavior-related challenges, educators will experience reduced burnout and turnover. New educators coming into the fold will feel more supported, valued, and equipped to handle behavior issues with confidence. Moreover, the learning environment will benefit from a solid classroom management system, promoting an atmosphere conducive to learning and growth for all students.

Leveraging the expertise and fostering collaboration between SPED and GenEd teams can create impactful new systems for managing behavior. By sharing knowledge and experiences, educators can receive the support they need precisely when they need it, empowering them to focus on what truly matters–the students. With a focus on collaboration and shared learning, we can build more inclusive and supportive environments where all students can thrive academically, socially, and emotionally.

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