When I first started teaching, I was determined to show students, parents, and colleagues that I knew everything (or at least I thought I did). When students complained, a lot of the time I was thinking about what I wanted to say more than hearing what they were really saying. Then I started to really watch my colleagues and administrators as they dealt with problems. I was amazed at how many of them defused an angry situation and how others made it worse. When I saw this, I realized that I wanted to be the one who could defuse a situation. I had an administrator who could sell ice cream to an Eskimo because of the graceful way she handled things. Maybe they learned how to do this in administrator training but I think teachers need this training. I began to think of how much training have I had over 28 years in conflict resolution. I remember doing a little bit of this in a college course but maybe it should be required on a regular basis during a teacher career like first aid should be.
If I had to teach a course on conflict resolution, I tried to think of activities that teachers should practice.
· Let the other person have their say as long as they are not using profanity or are verbally abusive.
· Listen to what the person is saying and summarize what they have said when they are done (focusing on this keeps you from thinking of other things).
· Sometimes it is not appropriate to share your opinion with others and that is okay. That doesn’t mean that you agree with them.
· Sometimes you can share your opinion even if it means you don’t agree with the other person. Others need to know where you stand but it is okay to disagree. It doesn’t mean either of you are wrong.
· If there is need for a solution, ask for help in brainstorming solutions to the problem. Explain that all suggestions will be considered without judgment at first. List all possible solutions without discussing them. Look at each one and write down the positive and negative consequences. After looking at all of these, come to an agreement on the solution or at least offer to consider the list and promise to get back to them.
· Sometimes no solution is required and that is okay too.
By doing this both parties get to have their say. Sometimes that is all the other person really wants. They sometimes don’t want a solution or need any action to be taken. Students sometimes need to express their feelings and know that someone cares enough to listen. It is really hard for me not to interrupt and tell them what I think but at the time they really don’t care what I think. Yes, it’s all about them and they want you and everybody else to know it. So what does it hurt to let them think that? It might be the only time anyone has listened to them
Maybe we need to teach our students how to listen and the best way is to model this for them. If we take time to listen to them, they will be able to learn this just like I learned by watching others. Maybe we need to have a “Take time to listen to someone” Day. I believe if we take more time to listen to our students and our colleagues, we will be more successful in our careers.