Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Conflict Resolution: Lifelong Skills Are Rooted in Kindergarten

Even the happiest classrooms have moments with disagreements, arguments, and fussing between students.  There are misunderstandings, poor choices, hurt feelings, and problems.  In my classroom, I intentionally view these moments as training for bigger moments which my students will face throughout their lives.   As adults, we face similar situations daily. In the workplace, in families, and amongst friends, there are misunderstandings, poor choices, hurt feelings, and problems.  There are disagreements, arguments, and sometimes there is even fussing.  Kindergarten is the perfect place to learn social problem solving skills to help prepare children for handling conflict throughout elementary school, in middle school, in high school, and as adults.

When students come to me with a conflict, my first question is always, "Have you talked to him or her about this yet?"  I then encourage the students to talk calmly about what the problem is, how it makes each of them feel, and ideas for solving it.  Often the students are able to handle this on their own, and it is a minimal distraction.  Sometimes they need a moderator to help encourage respect and possible solutions, a job with which I am happy to help.

I know that some teachers have a designated place in their classroom where these problem solving talks take place.  For my class, it works better for the students to deal with it wherever we are.  If we're on a bathroom break, we deal with it in the hallway.  If we're at recess, we deal with it at recess.  If we're on our way to the library, we deal with it on the way to the library.

From these conflict situations, my students are learning:
  • To stand up for themselves and to voice their concerns in a respectful way.
  • To listen to the person with whom they are having the conflict.
  • To consider the feelings of the other person.
  • To work together to come up with solutions.
In the adult world, we call call these things:
  • Self Esteem
  • Empowerment
  • Respect
  • Empathy 
  • Communication Skills
  • Problem Solving Skills
At the beginning of kindergarten, this process requires much modeling and assistance.  As we progress through the year, the students are able to take increasing control of the process.  At this point in the school year, conflicts in our classroom are dealt with almost entirely by the students.  What a freeing point to reach as a teacher!

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