Conflict is inevitable! It’s how conflict is resolved that’s important. As a former teacher, I’d like to offer some tips when your children come home with complaints about educational staff.
- Expect conflict!
- View conflict as an opportunity to be curious…curious about your child’s point of view and curious about the other’s point of view.
- Conflict is a great way to practice many skills such as listening with empathy, patience, and compassion…
- Conflict helps us practice being reflective (rather than reactive) and non-judgmental.
- Conflict is often misinterpretation…remember, there are at least three interpretations for any given issue.
- Almost without exception, conflict can be sorted out when ALL parties involved sit down together and focus on solutions.
- Talk to the person involved in the complaint. If your child is having difficulty with an educational assistant, talk with the educational assistant, not the principal! If there is a rule at your child’s school that all complaints must go to the principal, insist that you will only talk to All parties involved at the SAME time. If someone objects to that, consider it a red flag.
- Listen calmly to your child AND do not make judgements about the educator involved. Show empathy. Remember, your child is watching how YOU resolve conflicts.
- Refrain from taking the teacher’s side OR your child’s side.
- When the situation is resolved, forgive, remember the lessons learned and move on.
- Take notes, review with those present and send copies to all parties.
Here are three examples that I hope will be helpful.
I grew up in a small town, and my father was a principal of an elementary school. When we came home with a complaint about a teacher, my parents first question was, “What did you do to make the teacher so upset?”
This strategy put all the onus on us, and there were a few times when the teacher was at fault. However, I gave up telling my parents my concerns because I was pretty certain I wouldn’t be taken seriously. In grade 3, I was treated badly by a teacher, and it was years before I told my parents. It was a serious offence, and my father asked me why I didn’t tell him. I indicated that I didn’t think he’d believe me. Teachers can make mistakes; they’re human. Your children need to know that. They also need to know what is a serious offence.
An experienced teacher, noted for her sensitivity, integrity and honesty, found herself being bullied by a group of Grade 9 students. The teacher was of a conservative religious faith, wore her hair in a bun and dressed plainly and modestly. Students called her names, ridiculed her religion, ignored her instructions, regularly damaged her art supplies, criticized her until she finally went to the Head and asked for assistance. The principal, close to retirement, did make some attempts to help her. Even though this teacher had excellent teaching reports with no blemishes on her teaching report, she finally resigned. A few years after her resignation, her art work was showcased, and it became clearly apparent to many associated with that school what an excellent teacher they had lost. She never returned to teaching.
In this situation, the students clearly had control. It appeared that her “differences” were key to the reasons she was bullied. Group bullying such as this is becoming more and more “acceptable” in school situations. Youth want to be accepted by their peers. Parents, educators, administrators need to be sure that everyone, including educational staff, models acceptable and appropriate emotional and intellectual intelligence. Educational staff who consistently refuse to maintain these standards or improve have no place in schools. Other than their parents, children look to their teachers as models.
I was substituting for a teacher at the same school where my father was teaching. One of the students left class. went home to her mother and told her that I wouldn’t let her or other students go to the bathroom. The parent and the child turned up at the school…irate. The school principal called several of the students in the classroom to his office. He pleasantly told me he was conducting a survey so he would be asking several students to come to his office for a few minutes. I thought nothing of it. At the end of the class, there was a knock on my classroom door and there was Lizzy and her mother. Her mother said, “Lizzy, has something to tell you.” Lizzy told me what she had done and apologized for her behavior.
Wise principal. He separately interviewed children he could trust and discovered that Missy’s complaint had no merit. From what I understood later, Lizzy had to face some uncomfortable consequences. One of the consequences was that her mother indicated that Lizzy would have to work hard to regain her trust.
A Final Note
There are few difficulties that cannot be solved in an non=judgmental environment where calmness and compassion to ourselves and each other prevail.
What can you take from this article to more smoothly resolve conflicts at school?
Comments always welcome!