Establishing Peace Through Conflict Resolution: Why we need it and how to make it work in the elementary classroom
Current education practice puts little focus on conflict resolution strategies. This essay argues that, in light of the inevitability of conflict both in the classroom and in our society, teachers must teach students how to handle conflict constructively. Students will learn something each time they encounter conflict, and it is the responsibility of the teacher to make sure they learn something positive. This essay challenges typical views of conflict as negative. It investigates why and how conflict resolution strategies should be implemented in an elementary classroom in light of four major areas of educational practices: learners and learning, learning environment, curriculum and teaching strategies, and assessment. In the area of learners and learning, teachers must keep in mind a number of things when teaching conflict resolution. First, students learn best when they can actively construct meaning for themselves, so conflict resolution should not always look like the teacher solving the problem. Second, teachers must equip learners to do what we ask them to do. Third, teachers must make conflict resolution culturally relevant to all students. The learning environment must be one in which students feel safe. It must cater to students' need for consistency and stability. Conflict resolution must be interwoven into the fabric of the classroom. It is more of a worldview and a philosophy than a list of steps to take in the face of conflict. While there are a myriad of specific conflict resolution strategies, the most successful ones share important characteristics. Assessing conflict resolution strategies, while difficult, is of utmost importance. The teacher must use a variety of assessment tools, and the assessments must drive further instruction. Finally, this essay explains in detail the implications for teaching conflict resolution in an elementary classroom.