In the United States, teachers and educators don’t get nearly as much credit as they deserve. Teaching positions often require long hours and tremendous responsibility forcing teachers to handle tons of stress that most other industries don’t have to deal with.
One of the most troubling problems that teachers have to face is conflict among students. In some cases, these conflicts can be between peers. In other instances, teachers may be directly involved in verbal or physical altercations with students being forced to handle these problems on their own.
Because conflict management skills can help educators in the classroom, we offer comprehensive conflict resolution education and training. Teachers of all backgrounds and disciplines can benefit immensely from this training, both to aid in student learning and creating a stress-free environment.
The State of Conflict in America’s Schools
Before we can dive into the benefits and details of conflict resolution training for teachers and students, we must first understand the need for it. In a post-pandemic world, conflicts are much more prevalent in America’s schools, driving demand for solutions to help minimize the problem.
While there are many factors, some of the most common contributors include:
Long-Term Effects Of Online Learning
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, schools had to shut down for an extended period until educators could figure out how to resume classes safely. During the interim, students had to attend online classes and complete work digitally.
While this process may have been the safest and most convenient for everyone involved, it also robbed students of crucial social development skills. When children are outside of a structured classroom setting for so long, it’s hard for them to reintegrate smoothly. As many as 80 percent of all teachers report higher levels of student conflict compared to pre-pandemic times.
Even as the pandemic is officially over, the problems stemming from prolonged lockdowns are driving up cases of conflicts and disruptions. In many of these cases, conflict resolution can take the form of more structured class activities and adapt to the realities of a post-COVID world.
School Resource Officers (SROs)
According to the National Association of School Resource Officers, there are between 14,000 and 20,000 SROs operating in schools across the country. While these officers’ role is ostensibly to protect and serve the students, the reality is often different.
In many cases, teachers tend to outsource conflict resolution to an officer, rather than deal with it themselves. Unfortunately, SROs are not adequately trained in mediation skills and conflict management, so they tend to escalate the situation.
When both factors are present, SROs can often trigger more conflict, not less. Both older and younger students can feel stressed by an officer’s presence, especially because the SRO has the authority to arrest and detain students as needed. This heightened stress can negatively impact different conflict styles, meaning it’s more likely that an incident will escalate before diffusing.
Teachers have long had to deal with small budgets and large class sizes. However, in modern times, these problems have only gotten worse. In 2023, the average class size is 24 students, which is difficult for any teacher, even under the best conditions.
More students mean fewer meaningful classroom interactions, which can lead to isolation, anxiety, and conflict. Also, teachers are less likely to spot warning signs of a potential conflict when their attention is spread so thin across so many students.
Overall, school conflicts are on the rise, with various issues and circumstances making the problem worse, not better. On an individual basis, when a teacher can learn conflict resolution skills, they’re more capable of problem-solving and find it easier to do their job.
So, if you’re looking to mitigate conflicts at school, you can start by investing in conflict resolution education and training for teachers.
What is Conflict Resolution Training for Teachers and Students?
In an educational workplace environment, there are three primary types of conflict that a teacher could encounter:
- Student-to-Student Conflict
- Teacher-to-Student Conflict
- Teacher-to-Teacher Conflict
As a rule, workplace conflict between colleagues is much easier to handle, especially when compared to conflicts among younger students. So, it’s imperative for this training to deal with different conflict styles so trainees can adapt their responses accordingly.
Some basic elements of conflict resolution training for teachers can include:
When a conflict breaks out among students, teachers are the first line of defense against escalation. Unfortunately, when a fight or argument does happen, other students tend to escalate the situation by crowding around and shouting at the individuals involved.
So, teachers have to learn how to be excellent mediators, including learning how to handle elements like crowd control and problem-solving. Once the teacher can speak to the students individually, they can focus on understanding what happened and how it can get resolved quickly and amicably.
In some cases, peer mediation may be ideal for students as children can tend to shy away from speaking to adults about their problems. Having a fellow student or older kid present can make it easier for individuals to open up and share their perspectives.
Ideally, teachers can communicate with students freely and openly as much as possible to help them navigate the classroom. Unfortunately, when teachers have so little time available, they have to be able to communicate quickly and clearly.
Conflict resolution education and training can help teachers understand how to get to the point and ask the right questions. This way, they can identify the root cause of the conflict and help de-escalate the situation as much as possible.
Learning these communication skills is also valuable because teachers can show students how to use them as well. When students are able to communicate with each other more effectively, there’s less of a need for conflict resolution.
Obviously, the amount of peer mediation and communication depends on the grade level. For example, elementary school students may not feel comfortable talking to their peers when something bad happens. In middle and high school, students may be more emotionally developed, allowing them to step into these roles with guidance.
In elementary and middle school, students have a homeroom from which they learn the bulk of their material. This setup is conducive to conflict resolution because teachers have more time to help the students learn and grow.
Part of conflict resolution is to help individuals recognize and mitigate problematic behaviors. When students start understanding conflict and how it manifests, they can spot problems before they escalate out of control.
Community building is also essential to fostering a positive and inviting learning environment. Teachers can empower students to communicate with each other and faculty to create a more collaborative and uplifting classroom experience and school community.
What is Involved in Conflict Resolution Training for Teachers and Students?
While the specific elements of conflict resolution education and training vary from one class to the next, educators will likely learn the following skills:
Children can often feel ignored or shut out of a conversation, particularly when an adult is speaking. By learning active listening, teachers can be more open and accommodating to students, especially younger ones with developing minds.
A big part of active listening for conflict resolution is knowing when to ask questions and when to just hear the person out. Sometimes, the involved party may not know what information to divulge or what to omit. Teachers can help keep the conversation focused to ensure a faster and more comprehensive resolution.
Everyone tends to do better when they’re built up, not torn down. This is especially true when children are involved, as their confidence levels now will follow them well into adulthood.
In some cases, conflict resolution can be as simple as providing positive feedback and reinforcement to those involved in the incident. Children usually can’t separate what happens at home and at school, so any problems going on at home can transfer to the classroom. In some instances, children may be carrying negative feedback from parents or older siblings, so a teacher providing positive reinforcement can help alleviate that stress.
This tactic is also helpful when discussing elements like critical thinking. It’s natural for students to get the wrong answer, but that doesn’t define their intelligence. Instead, a teacher can reinforce the idea that wrong answers lead to correct ones, ensuring that students feel more positively about failing.
Conflict Resolution Exercises
Sometimes, physical activities can be enough to calm a situation and lead to better resolutions. For example, taking deep breaths and counting to 10 can help ease a conflict and put people in the right mindset. Students may be quick to react and lash out during a conflict, so holding back and practicing these exercises can make resolution strategies more effective.
It’s also important for teachers to use these exercises when they’re tempted to engage in a conflict with co-workers or students. People of all ages can benefit from taking a break before dealing with a painful or challenging situation.
Why Do Teachers Need to Learn Conflict Resolution?
Investing in conflict resolution education is valuable for teachers for several reasons. Overall, it can make them better educators and provide a better environment for students and faculty.
Here’s a breakdown of all the advantages one can expect from conflict resolution training:
Better Classroom Interactions
Students do best when teachers can form positive social bonds with them. Because communication skills are essential for conflict resolution, they can help teachers connect and engage with students more easily.
When students are able to communicate freely and openly with their teachers, they’re more receptive to learning and growing within the classroom. These interactions can also foster better critical thinking, allowing students to perform better on tests and other metrics.
Fewer Arguments and Altercations
Because conflicts can arise both in and outside the classroom, teachers can spot potential incidents and prevent them before they get out of control.
Additionally, conflict resolution education can help faculty members work better and more collaboratively together. When everyone is on the same page and understands the needs of others, conflicts are far less likely.
Finally, whether it’s for faculty or students, peer mediation can de-escalate situations far better than bringing an SRO into the equation. Overall, conflict resolution education can help teachers be the first line of defense instead of relying on a police officer.
More Well-Rounded Students
We’ve already discussed how open communication can foster better relationships between students and teachers. Similarly, when kids don’t have to worry about conflicts brewing and erupting, they can focus more on their studies and do better in class.
Conflict resolution education can also provide valuable skills that help teachers motivate their students. For example, talking to them and understanding their side of things can help the teacher find the best path forward. Since everyone has their own motivations, teachers can use this knowledge to help students further their academic careers.
Other Instances of Conflict Resolution With Teachers
While most of a teacher’s daily interactions are with students, they can still get involved in other types of conflict. In these cases, peer mediation can still provide substantial benefits, although educators must tailor their methods to fit their audience.
So, let’s break down other situations where teachers may have to worry about handling conflict. Plus, by transferring these skills outside of the classroom, it’s a win-win for both educators and everyone else.
Teachers vs. Other Teachers
Educators are always dealing with each other in faculty lounges, hallways, PTA events, and other locations. Because teaching can be so stressful, educators can often be carrying a lot of conflict inside, ready to erupt.
Fortunately, educators can often find common ground with each other faster because they understand what others are going through. In many cases, the conflict may arise from external factors, not necessarily a personal issue with someone else.
Nonetheless, peer mediation is still valuable, especially if two teachers are having a dispute or conflict with each other. A third party can step in and help quash the problem without it resorting to violence or verbal altercations.
Teachers vs. Administrators
There is already a kind of combative relationship between educators and administrators, so it’s natural for that animosity to escalate into open conflict. However, in these situations, it can be trickier to create solutions because administrators are often the ones calling the shots.
So, disputes and conflicts can often be centered around administrative decisions, not necessarily students or curriculum. For example, teachers may have a hard time securing school resources to instruct their classrooms.
Fortunately, conflict resolution training can come in handy by allowing educators to leverage their communication skills for good. In this case, they can provide mediation for their own interactions, working on finding solutions that work for everyone, not just one side or the other.
Teachers vs. Parents
In recent years, disputes between parents and educators have reached an all-time high. Usually, this frustration is related to political divides. For example, parents may have strong feelings about certain lessons or programs the school provides for the students.
Unfortunately, even if the educator is not the one creating the lesson plan, these disputes can still create a tense workplace environment.
Further complicating the issue is that they involve different perspectives. So, educators have to be careful about how they approach a topic, especially when dealing with teaching volatile groups. In these cases, communication is critical to ensure an amicable agreement with everyone involved. Otherwise, that frustration could boil over and create a very public situation.
How Resolve Conflict Resolution Training Can Help
Conflict resolution skills and strategies are valuable for teachers, administrators, and other educational faculty. By focusing on problem-solving, our program can help educators figure out how to maintain their attention on teaching while also providing care and compassion to their students.
We can customize our lessons to fit your needs, so contact us today to find out more.