Paraeducators: Behavior Management Basics


At some point paraeducators find themselves supporting students who need more than academic help. Paraeducators play an important role in supporting the development of well-adjusted and well-educated students who grow up to be productive, fulfilled adults. While we often associate “school” with academic subjects like reading and math, it’s also a place where students learn social skills like managing their emotions and behaving in ways that keep them safe and don’t disrupt learning.

Behavior management is a term for different strategies that educators and paraeducators use to help students learn expected behaviors within educational environments. In the course of a single school day, you might find yourself working with students in multiple classrooms, the cafeteria, playgrounds, hallways, bathrooms, common areas, buses, field trips, and vocational settings. Regardless of your specific role, you’ll need to be familiar with behavior management strategies.

Here’s a big question: Why do students behave the way they do?

The short answer is that human behavior can be complicated. One thing to keep in mind is that all behavior is a means of communication. And if we can understand what the behavior is communicating, we can often help students learn more appropriate ways to express themselves.

The four most common things students communicate through their behavior are needs and desires:

  • for attention.
  • to earn some type of rewarding activity or item.
  • to avoid or escape something unpleasant.
  • for some type of sensory experience.

10 things paraeducators can do that are universally helpful in behavior management:

  • Develop good relationships.
  • Model respectful behavior.
  • Stay calm and positive.
  • Set the scene for positive behavior.
  • Teach what to do.
  • Respond to challenging behaviors.
  • Create a win-win situation.
  • Interrupt and redirect.
  • Catch them being good.
  • Provide structure, routine, and organization.

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