There are many ways that you can encourage a safe learning place for your students, and resolving conflict in your classroom is one of the most important tools you have. Through conflict management techniques, you can ensure your classroom remains a positive environment focused on learning, regardless of the differences your students face in socio-economic status, race, cultural background, individual personalities, and academic performance.
All it takes is a look at current news and world events to see that conflict resolution is a lifelong skill that many adults have not yet mastered. Learning the fundamentals of conflict resolution early will help your students thrive from the classroom, to the office, to their home setting...to ultimately the boardroom.
Here are some tools that we’ve found to be useful in achieving conflict resolution in the classroom:
- Take a Breath
In any environment, a conflict will escalate when people are upset. If you are emotional you cannot grasp a logical view of the situation. With these emotional conflicts, encourage students to hit the “pause button”, so they can take a breath. Even if you have to move students to opposite sides of the room, allow them to have a couple of moments apart to diffuse the situation. You can also encourage students to take part in a 5-minute Meditation before attempting to create a solution.
- Define the Issue
Some problems you encounter are worth discussing and others should be let go. You, as the educator, you are responsible for deciding when it’s appropriate to smooth over a situation or tackle it head on. It is important that every step of the resolution process is focused on the student. They need to have a voice, feel heard, and be able to move forward past the incident.
- Journaling Feelings
Many students are not comfortable speaking about their problems, but they are okay with drawing or writing about their issues. Giving students journals to document their feelings gives them a safe space to understand their thoughts. You can even have students journal online in a Google Doc.
- Brainstorm a Solution
Encourage students to own the process and create their own resolutions to problems. Instead of telling students what to do, ask students how they would resolve their conflict. This type of reasoning also helps develop students’ critical thinking skills. You can use brainstorming techniques, like drawing diagrams, or students can use you as an impartial third party.
- Check on Progress
Once a solution has been decided upon, have students shake hands to acknowledge the disagreement is over. It is important to have a shared gesture between involved parties to agree to move forward. Your final step in conflict resolution is to monitor the involved students.
By correctly handling conflicts in your class, you strengthen bonds between students and lay the foundation to teach them how to handle issues in the future. This open communication will limit conflicts and allows you to focus on teaching students rather than refereeing situations.
Daily, we are faced with emotional issues in our lives that can be negatively escalated by mishandling situations. Your classroom is no exception, and you can handle conflicts effectively with the right tools. These methods will assist you in retaining healthy control of your classroom, ensuring that your students feel safe and comfortable in their learning environment.