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January 30, 2018
Conflict Resolution at LFS
By Teacher Kate Grant-Day

“Aaargh! She won’t stop making that noise and I’m trying to work!”

“You knocked over my block building and I worked really hard on it!”

“You’re cheating!”

Conflicts abound in each school day. Frustrations with other students are inevitable. At LFS, we teachers work to teach and model ways to work out conflicts constructively. The social curriculum is as valuable here as the academic curriculum. I believe these are life-long skills.

Each teacher does this slightly differently, and it varies by age and situation, but here is a basic list of conflict resolution steps. These steps are very often mediated by a teacher.

  • Get calm and ready to talk. This may take a while, and that is acceptable.
  • Set up ground rules: each person needs to listen without interrupting and wait for a turn to speak, even if they disagree with what someone is saying.
  • State what went wrong or what happened.
  • Listen to the other person’s point of view.
  • State what you need from the other person and listen to what they need.
  • State whether you can agree to what they are requesting.

Some students request an apology, and some are more likely to request that the other person not repeat the behavior in question. I often tell children they don’t have to follow up an apology with, “That’s okay.” If they don’t feel the situation was “okay,” they can respond with, “Thanks for the apology,” or “I accept your apology.” I don’t usually suggest an apology if a student is not requesting one, but I have noticed that many of our students offer them without prompting.

Sometimes we ask students to offer an apology of action. This may include helping to rebuild something that got knocked down, getting an icepack for a hurt child, or cleaning up a spill.

Sometimes a teacher suggests a helpful alternative. For example, if a child is making a noise, they may need something to help them recognize they are making a sound, or permission to work in a different location, or to have something quiet to “fidget” with.

We often work to help our students to be aware of their own feelings and how feelings affect their interactions. We want children to be able to name feelings, and to tell others how certain behaviors make them feel.  

Over my years of teaching in Quaker schools, I have learned from some wonderful mentors. I have borrowed their techniques for incorporating lessons into my class to help children practice empathy, inclusivity, and conflict resolution. Sometimes these are referred to as “Life Skills.”

In my class, we also practice some mindfulness techniques to help us get calm, reduce anxiety, and prepare to learn. Most of the time, this means a few moments of calm stillness and breathing. Sometimes I lead students in “guided meditation” or stretching.

I am extremely grateful to work at a school that values helping students gain interpersonal skills.

Teacher Kate with her 3rd and 4th graders