Ruben Perez from the aha!Process speaks to staff about Emotional Poverty.

Rubén Perez, a national consultant for aha! Process in Houston, Texas, spoke Tuesday to Parsons USD 503 staff about addressing emotional issues in the classroom and eliminating myths about behaviors.

The day-long workshop taught methods presented in Dr. Ruby K. Payne’s book “Emotional Poverty in All Demographics: How to Reduce Anger, Anxiety, and Violence in the Classroom.” Not knowing what causes students to act out, and in turn not knowing how to respond appropriately, can have negative impacts on students’ behaviors and teachers alike.

Perez laid a foundation for what causes a lot of behaviors that lead to episodes in classrooms, helping educators see past the actions to the cause, and provided options for responses to the misbehavior.

“It’s empowering people with strategies and approaches that don’t match what is normally, conventionally done in schools,” Perez said. “It’s not new information, it’s an opening to think a different way or approach behaviors in a more productive, designed, custom way for students, so what you are trying to communicate is better understood.”

“It’s more about humanizing the behaviors we see as anti-school or detrimental to the learning environment.  It’s humanizing that there is a person behind those behaviors. Sometimes it is a mask and not the real person, it’s their defense mechanism or their response to what’s going on and if you can get past that surface, that mask, and reach the actual person, you will generally have a much better relationship, and consequently you will have much better behaviors that are much more complimentary to the learning environment.”

Time invested in learning the tools and skills Perez provided can save teachers valuable time in the classroom addressing bad behaviors. Perez said the key is to address the motivations for the behavior.

“You spend more time trying to figure out a student and wondering ‘What can I do?’ That’s what takes the time, because everyone is willing to do it, they just don’t know what to do.  They spend more time in trial and error” Perez said. “Any time you have more skills, more insight, more strategies, more go-to’s that are immediately at hand, it cuts through the concern about the time element, because you get (to resolutions) faster. If you’ve got more common strategies and confidence under your skin then it is easier to be faster with the end in mind.”

Perez said the strategies he offers provide both immediate and long-term effects. Equipping teachers with these strategies helps students to feel safe, have a sense of belonging and that they matter as much as others in the class rather than feeling separate, and “less than.”

“All emotional wellness is based in safety and belonging,” Perez said. “You cannot change a behavior, but it’s easy to change motivation behind behavior.”