Conflicts in schools are an everyday occurrence and exist between students and their teachers and between students and students in the classroom, playground, the dining hall and in the school community. Students talk about conflict with their peers, parents, siblings and extended family members. They talk to me about their different experiences of conflict, their feelings and how these conflicts were resolved or not in some cases.
Teachers talk about conflicts with students whose behaviour and attitude they find difficult to manage in the classroom or other areas of the school. I often mediate between students and teacher, student and student to resolve long or short conflicts. It is the individual’s perception of the conflict, the reasons, causes, who is to blame, how the conflict started, tend to drive the conflict to either to a resolution or a protracted conflict that may last beyond school. When conflict arises what are the individual options? They can either chose to continue the conflict, ignore and hope it will go away or to problem-solve.
Helping students to reach an agreement is about helping them to develop positive relationships allowing them to exist peacefully in the school environment. It is important to facilitate the process in a fair and impartial way. I always make it clear to students that just because I know them I am not about taking sides or to judge, but to listen to each disputant’s side of the story. It is about trying to understand the conflict and working with them to find a solution and reach a working agreement. Students often interact with each other in different lessons, the playground, and friendship groups. Asking questions can become the beginning of a dialogue between individuals to explore and consider resolutions.
- How did the conflict start?
- Who/what started the conflict?
- Who else is involved in the conflict?
- What was your relationship like before the conflict started?
- What are the key the issues for each individual?
- What do you see as a solution?
- What are the chances of the solution working?
- What if the solution does not work out?
Resolution can only happen when we begin to develop an understanding of the causes of a conflict. Experience has taught me those teaching students to resolve minor or major conflicts have a significant positive effect and benefit their relationships and communication skills. Other positive benefits include academic achievement, positive mental and emotional wellbeing, healthy interpersonal and group relationships. Conflict resolution is an important life skill that will help students in their future as adults.