School conflict can take a variety of forms, from bullying and fighting to verbal disagreements or academic competition. It is important for teachers, parents, and students alike to be mindful of ways to manage these conflicts in order to maintain a healthy learning environment.
Here are some tips for handling school conflict:
1. Encourage Open Communication
Communication is key, especially in a learning environment. Regardless of the ages of your students or how many you have, fostering a space where they feel comfortable expressing themselves, discussing their feelings, and setting boundaries will lead to both academic and social success.
Whenever possible, try to encourage open dialogue. This way all parties are heard and students get more comfortable as they express their desires or frustrations with one another without fear of judgment or repercussions.
As a teacher, you may need to facilitate this discussion from time to time (especially if you’re working with younger students). The most important thing you can do is be neutral and give space for everyone involved to share their perspective without ‘picking a side.’
2. Deal With The Issue Straight Away
You may be tempted, from time to time, to let a situation ‘blow over.’ While this isn’t a bad way to discipline or handle conflict, especially in the classroom where the focus is on academics, sometimes it’s not effective because one party feels like their feelings are being ignored and the other thinks that they can continue their behavior without consequences.
Rather than adopting a ‘hope-for-the-best’ type of strategy, be proactive.
If you see something, say something. If you need to intervene, do so. And if you’re tempted to just ‘let kids be kids’ and figure it out, don’t. Provide options, a listening ear, and the power to self-advocate. From there, your students will not only be able to articulate their perspective but there will be less issues and more communication (which is key!).
3. Focus On Solutions
Rather than dwelling on the problem itself, focus on finding a solution that everyone involved is happy with. On his website, Brian Lumar talks about taking a collaborative approach in order to ensure all parties reach an agreement. Adopt this in your classroom!
Even though there won’t always be a ‘perfect’ choice, if you focus less on the negative parts of the problem and more on how it can be fixed, your perspective starts to shift. In addition, teaching problem-solving skills can help students take ownership of their actions and develop strategies for managing future conflicts.
4. Listen Carefully
If you want to avoid school conflict, be a good listener. Regardless of how silly or small your student’s issue may be, try to really be present and supportive. A listening ear goes a long way, and sometimes this is the little push that your student needs to move on, let go, and be confident in their choices.
As you listen, try to also embrace a story from different perspectives. Perhaps there’s something underlying that needs to be addressed. or a side of the argument you didn’t see. As a listener, be open.
5. Set Boundaries
Establishing boundaries between students is essential to creating a safe learning environment and preventing further conflict from arising. Letting students know what behavior is acceptable and unacceptable can help them understand their responsibilities in managing conflicts constructively.
You can (and should!) also teach your students to express their own preferences and emotions, too. And as the teacher, you can also set your own boundaries. This can be something as simple as explaining to your students how you would prefer to be addressed (Miss Marisa or Miss Donnelly) or touched (high-five vs. hug for example). When you model clear, constructive, and appropriate boundaries, you can teach your students to use their voice.
6. Use Mediation Services
If necessary, teachers or counselors can provide mediation services which can help resolve disputes while keeping all parties involved in a respectful dialogue. This might involve providing guidance to help the students understand each other’s perspectives and find a mutually beneficial solution.
You can also tap into other resources at your school location or available to you locally, for example, a therapist, a school counselor, etc. These are neutral parties who can help your students avoid getting wrapped up in drama they don’t need (or want) to be involved in.
7. Offer Conflict-Resolution Skills
Teaching your students how to handle conflicts constructively is another essential step in managing disputes effectively. Facilitate conversations and activities centered around developing problem-solving skills. This which will encourage students to think before they act, especially when disagreements occur. Emphasize the importance of being open to different viewpoints and respectful when engaging in conversations about sensitive issues.
8. Provide Support & Resources
It is important to provide students with access to additional resources, such as counseling services or peer support groups, if needed. This can help them learn better conflict-resolution techniques, gain a better understanding of how to handle difficult situations, and create a safe space where they feel comfortable expressing their feelings.
By taking a proactive approach and implementing these strategies, schools can ensure that conflicts are managed respectfully and effectively, while creating an atmosphere of mutual respect among all parties involved. With thoughtful planning, teachers, parents, and students alike can work together to resolve disputes peacefully and maintain a positive learning environment for everyone.