Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Conflicts Happen

conflict As every teacher knows, conflict can happen on any given day at any given time between any two or more people. Well, today was the day.

We have a summer program where there are five teachers and nineteen students. Our program lasts four weeks and the teachers are actually students in my graduate class working on their master’s degree. They are using all that they have learned up to this point and applying it in the classroom. This means that they had to assess the students, come up with goals for them, plan lessons, write weekly reports to parents and then give a final report on the last week. This is a very intense program but it is really amazing to watch all of the people involved grow. I see how much the children benefit and I also see the teachers grow professionally.

Today was the day that a parent was very upset. When I called to ask about her child who was absent, she shared her feelings. First of all, I’m really glad that I was able to listen to her and let her air out her grievances. This parent was under the impression that her child would be taught certain topics and not what is being taught in the class. She was upset about the goals, the way the teacher was teaching, and the rapport between the teacher and her child. I explained that I had approved the goals and that I was observing the teacher on a regular basis and saw that the teacher was using research based practices in the classroom. I felt the teacher was doing a great job and would not ask the teacher to change. Now the parent will have to make the decision on whether or not to send her child back.

I truly feel the parent had a right to share her feelings with me and explain why she felt that way. I hope that I was a role model for the teacher in learning how to deal with conflict. I think it is very important to let people have their say as long as they are civil and respectful in the way they share their feelings. This opens the line of communication and clears the air so I would not ever discourage this in any way.

After talking with the parent, I discussed the parent’s concerns with the teacher. Needless to say, the teacher was concerned about what affect this would have. Just because a parent is upset or has concerns doesn’t mean that anyone is a bad teacher. We need to get away from taking this personal and see if the conflict can be resolved in any way.

Since I felt the teacher was doing everything expected and that the lessons were appropriate and highly relevant for the age group, nothing would change there. I offered to take the parent’s child aside and try to teach some lessons in the topic she wants her child to learn but she wanted the whole class to learn the same topic as her son. Unfortunately, I could not come up with a satisfactory solution and even asked the parent what she thought would be a good compromise. Again, this opens the door to communication between both of us. Yet, the parent could not come up with one so no compromise was ever established.

I’m sorry that the teacher (my student) had to go through this but I feel it is a real life situation and it became a great learning opportunity. Not only did the teacher learn from this but I also learned from this. I will make sure that parents are fully aware of our assessment of the child during the first week and the purpose for the program. I will make sure that after giving the parents the weekly report, they give the parents an opportunity to discuss what was given in the report.

I am very proud of my teachers and the way they are teaching. Of course our teaching skills continue to grow every day and won’t stop until we stop teaching. We also need to remember that we also grow from conflicts that happen so they are not necessarily a terrible thing!

Have you had a conflict that you felt was a learning experience? Please share.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Impala' by: Arno Meintjes

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