Conflict Resolution in the Classroom
Teachers don’t just instruct students or impart information regarding history, math or science. Teachers are also instrumental in modeling behavior and imparting essential life skills for coping socially. As a teacher, you’ve inevitably seen conflict brewing between students or have had ongoing issues with particular students yourself. Conflict resolution can be an important tool in the classroom, not just for keeping the peace and making an optimal learning environment, but as a skill that students can learn and apply to their own lives.
Conflicts between Students
If you have two students were working peacefully on a project together one moment, and the next, you hear arguing, you have several options as a teacher. For the sake of peace and quiet, it might be tempting to jump in and try to quiet the controversy immediately, but it may be better to allow students to work out the problem among themselves and try to find their own solutions. This approach helps them to develop conflict resolution skills without depending on an outside party. As long as the argument is not becoming too acrimonious or disruptive, you could allow the students to try to work it out on their own. If this doesn’t work, you can serve as a mediator.
As a third party, both sides need to see you as fair and impartial. If one party feels that you have a bias, whether this suspicion warranted or not, it may be a good idea to have another party come in and serve as a mediator. In a regular school, the ideal person for this role is a guidance counselor or a substitute teacher.
Teacher and Student Conflicts
It may not be pleasant to admit it, but if you’ve been teaching for any length of time, it is likely that you have had ongoing conflict with a particular student. Before discussing your issues with the principal, you can try conflict resolution techniques to try to nip the problem in the bud. A number of educators recommend learning something about conflict resolution to deal with these kinds of problems. You may pursue ACU’s conflict resolution degree or take some online classes in conflict resolution from Case Western. With or without a degree, you can apply the principles of conflict resolution to your own situation.
First of all, direct communication is important. Make sure that this communication stays respectful and does not dissolve into the student calling you names. You may feel able to handle some unpleasantness, but it is not productive to allow the students get away with the verbal abuse. Both parties should express their positions clearly and be allowed to be heard for an equal amount time. You can then brainstorm solutions that would be advantageous for you and the students. It is important that you accept responsibility if you’ve done something wrong. This does not undermine your authority, but can enhance the respect your students have for you. If the conflicts cannot be resolved by the parties themselves, speak to someone in the administration for third-party assistance between you and the student or a guidance counselor.