Blog Archives

Resolving Conflict at School

We are off to a great start this school year, and after three days we’ve handled our share of conflict.  Inevitably, conflict will arise in our school community.  Let’s face it, not everyone will be happy with every decision made by teachers or principals.  In this post, we’ll discuss a few key ideas for managing conflict to yield the best results for all involved.  For our purposes as a school community we will use the following definition of conflict.  Conflict is a form of friction, disagreement, or discord arising within a group or by an individual.  While there are many types of conflict, we’ll use that definition as the one to describe most the conflict we see in schools.

iStock_000007773642XSmallConflict2Here are some key ideas to remember in order to resolve conflict when it arises:

 Identify the Root of Your Conflict

The first key idea to successful conflict resolution sounds simple; however, many times it is not.  Over time every student, parent, or teacher has interactions with others that may feed future conflict.  Unresolved conflict from the past will compound the current issues.  Before attempting to communicate with the other party, first identify the conflict without allowing the past to impact the current situation.  I remember my mom teaching me from a very young age that it was better to handle one situation, or conflict, at a time because if you don’t you’ll only be more emotional when you finally decide to deal with it.

Remove the Emotion

Too many times I have observed adults allow their emotions to be the driving force in communication as they attempt to resolve conflict.  If given the opportunity, children respond in this way as well.  The second key idea to successful conflict resolution is to get your emotions in check.  Whether the situation has made you angry or sad, heightened emotion will only decrease your ability to decide which are the right questions to ask.  Only by asking the right questions will you get the information you need in order to move to the next key idea, which is listening to understand.

Listening to Understand 

Ok, let’s be honest.  This one is really difficult.  It may be the most difficult of our key ideas to implement in the process of conflict resolution. Remember, if we’ve made it to this key idea we have identified our issue and removed the emotion we feel in order to ask the right questions. We have a strategy to teach this in schools, and I have included it below.  Using I statements, children begin to process their emotions and communicate what it is they want and need from those around them.  As adults, we need to ask questions in order to seek answers.  Remember, though, that even if we ask the right questions it is for the sole purpose of listening to the answers.  Many adults, myself included, are guilty of listening to respond in order to get what they want.  Truly listening, especially when we are in conflict, is essential to be able to determine if there are ways to negotiate a solution.

Click below for a strategy for helping children with conflict resolution:

http://www.responsiveclassroom.org/article/coaching-children-handling-everyday-conflicts

Negotiate a Solution

By the time we make it to this key idea, both parties clearly understand the conflict.  It is likely both sides understand the position of the other, and a mutual solution may be clear to all.  If there isn’t a clear solution at this time, the conversation may have revealed fundamental differences in your position.  If this is the case, it is important to find a win-win compromise when possible.

Will there be times during our school year where you feel as if our concerns weren’t heard?  It is our goal to say, “No!”  Remember, there are a few principles present in our approach to resolving conflict:  be calm, be patient, and have respect.  Many times resolving conflict is more about the approach taken than the solution, because when both sides of conflict seek to understand each other many times that mutually agreed solution becomes crystal clear!

 Sincerely Yours,

HMG

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A Parent’s Guide for Back to School

If you are like me, you spent a few minutes this weekend visiting Target or Wal-Mart gearing your kids up to return to school.  As I was standing in line, I looked around at the other families with their carts full of #2 pencils, Crayola crayons and colored pencils,  folders, notebooks, binders, dry erase markers, Kleenex, and Clorox wipes and it reminded me of all our families preparing to return this week.  So, here are a few tips to start the school year off right and keep it going in the right direction.

A Parent’s Guide for Back to School:  3Tips for a Successful School Year  

Establish a Routine

This is the most important tip to discuss!  Children, and most adults,  thrive on structure.  Younger children depend on routines to learn successful habits.   I encourage parents to work together with their school aged children and create a checklist or agenda to outline their responsibilities in the morning, after school, and the evening.  When parents allow their children to be involved in the process of establishing school routines, its focused on responsibility and ownership which increases effectiveness.

Our evenings go a little like this, after dinner the kids take a bath and brush their teeth.  Then once we have pajamas on we choose our outfits for the following day and put them on top of the dresser, so we know where to find them in the morning.  Then it is bedtime, but not before we enjoy a story or a chapter in one of our favorite books.  As you can see, by making some of the most contentious decisions in the evening while everyone is awake and not sleepy or grumpy, we’ve decreased any opportunity to make small decisions a big deal.  This makes our morning easier to manage, and decreases many of the morning power struggles before the kids get to school.

After school we are much more laid back.  We choose not to do homework right after school.  I realize my six year old has just spent a full day in a structured environment, so we take some time and space to relax and play.  We usually decide on a whim if he wants to do homework before or after dinner, and whatever he chooses is when we do it.  I think by giving him the choice, again, it give him buy in and a little control over the decision.  Then our evening routine starts again, and once the kids are asleep we head down to make and pack lunches for the next day.

Create a Partnership with your Teacher & School

Take the first step to open the channels of communication with your child’s teacher.  Sure, there are ice cream socials and back to school events which allow parents a sneak peek into the classroom.  I encourage you not to stop there.  Within the first few weeks of school reach out and schedule a time to talk on the phone or send a quick e-mail.  Share with the teacher the best ways to get in touch with you, and encourage him or her to contact you whenever needed.  If there are specifics you’d like the teacher to know about your child, communicate them.  I’ve observed so many parents use the wait and see approach with teacher communication.  Communicate as often as needed to make you feel as if you have an accurate pulse on the classroom and your child’s progress.

If possible, find a way to volunteer.  Whether this is consistently or only when you have time off work, it is so important for your child to see you invested in his or her learning process.  Ask the teacher where and when help is most needed, and make it work.  You won’t regret it!  I have heard parents say, “I don’t think my child’s teacher likes volunteers.”  I don’t know of an elementary school teacher who would turn down another pair of adult hands, even if it is only every once in a while.  If you feel more comfortable volunteering outside of the classroom get connected with the PTO and find out what opportunities might be right for you.

This is too important not to mention – please never let your child hear you speak negatively about a teacher or the school.  This undermines the work of the school and creates unnecessary questions in the mind of a child.  If you have questions or disagree with something, reach out to the adults involved and find a solution.  Many times, just gathering all the facts can provide clarity and direction.

Stay Connected & Informed

Many schools and teachers use newsletters and/or maintain websites to provide parents with as much news, information, and upcoming events as possible.   Most websites have the opportunity to sign up for the listserv, which sends you an email at an address of your choice when new information is posted.  In addition, many now have Twitter and Facebook to expand the means of communication through social media.  If you are unsure how to get the most up to date and accurate information, call the school’s office or e-mail your child’s teacher.  Schools put a lot of information “out there”, but we know our families are as busy ever.  Find a way to get the information you need when and how YOU need it.

Good luck to all the teachers, students, and families who start school this week!  We are right there with you.  This is a great time to be an educator, and together with families, we will all find success in the end.

Sincerely yours,

HMG

Launching an Effective Year

How many of you operate on a balanced school calendar?  We do, and its no secret how much I love the benefits!  That said, there is one – and only one – major drawback.

Our first day of school is July 30th!  

b2school

You heard me right.  July 30th is our first day of school with students.  We are fortunate enough to have our teachers with us for two work days prior to the students first day, so they return July 28th.  Gone are the days when school began as summer ended.  We’ve yet to have a 90 degree day in Indy, but summer is still in full swing.  Here are a few tips to use to launch a successful school year, even if you are launching it in the summer:

Get organized –  Make a commitment to organize your work flow, whether it is lesson plans or lesson observations.  Ensure your environment, a classroom or office, is conducive for maximum productivity.  If being organized isn’t something you are naturally driven to do, reach out to colleagues for tips and advice about how to keep one step ahead.  This will decrease stress and anxiety!

Establish a classroom/school community –  Establish clear expectations and allow students to contribute to the norms in your class.  A highly effective teacher teaches children to self monitor choices and behavior while positively impacting those around them.  In my experience, posting rules is a path to classroom management disaster.  Instead, teach children to set class goals, and then reward them when they meet a goal together.  Building classroom communities who make a positive impact upon each other is a way to focus on the development of the whole child and simulates what children are expected to do as they entire our global society.

Build relationships with students and families –  Break home and school barriers by building authentic relationships with students and parents.  Use your skill and training to help parents understand “school” ,and then give them tips on how to support their children for success in your class.  All teachers and schools are a little different.  Be clear and communicate with children, and their families, exactly what you expect. From my perspective in the office, many parents are doing the best they can.  I have many families tell me exactly that!  Once you’ve established a caring and trusting relationship, together you are a partner in helping their child grow and succeed.

There was a teacher I worked with in the past who only communicated negatively about many of her families.  While she loved the children, she was judgmental and lacked empathy when speaking of their parents.  My question to her was always, what could you recommend they do differently?  How can you help them understand they are not helping their child be successful?  Of course, there were no answers to these question on the part of this teacher.  However, I believe those who do have answers create relationships where an entire family grows from the experiences with that teacher.

Build relationships with colleagues – Get involved in professional organizations and school activities to get to know your colleagues.  The “grown ups” at work are those that will be there in happy times and carry you through the tough times.  Some may think, “I don’t need friends at work!”  Colleagues don’t have to be friends, but with a little mutual respect a professional friendship can be just want you need to grow and feel supported.

Celebrate –  Take pride in your accomplishments and those of your students!  Start each day asking what is going well and focus on the good.  Make a commitment not to get caught up in things that didn’t go your way, and remind yourself that it is through failure when we  learn and grow the most.  Teach your children about taking risks and promise them you’ll love and support them if they fail.  The idea of iteration, which is the act of  repeating a process with the aim of approaching a desired goal, target or result, will help children (and adults) understand that failing is a part of the learning process, and we always have an opportunity to make changes and try again.

Speak up and advocate –  Don’t hesitate to tell school critics that you and your colleagues are doing a good job!  Refuse to become any part of a conversation, in our out of school, where you aren’t sharing the positive.  Negativity can divide an entire group or community, so see yourself as an advocate to spread the good word of our schools.  Remember, your voice matters!

Just relax and remember that you are only one person, and you are doing the best you can.  Most teachers put a great deal of pressure on themselves to be perfect.  Keep that perfectionism in check as it has a tendency to negatively impact you and those around you.  Finally, keep a sense of humor!   To be most effective an educator has a sense of purpose and a strong passion to reach the goal.  However, we lose many great teachers because they forget that play is a part of being successful with your students and colleagues.

Have a great start to your year!

Sincerely yours,

HMG

Next Up:  Innovative Classroom Instruction