Sohnen-Moe Associates, Inc

Teacher's Aide

Spring 2002

Avoiding and Managing Classroom Conflicts

by Shelley Sheets

You, the instructor, are the facilitator of the classroom climate. To effectively avoid and manage conflict, you must create standards that are clear, basic, assertive, and meaningful. This may include establishing a motto that reflects standards of behavior such as, "All students are expected to demonstrate respect and responsibility for themselves and others during the class," or "Each student uses respectful words and actions with one another." Have students agree to demonstrate social courtesies while interacting and be aware of appropriate boundaries. It is important to empower all students so that no individual s thoughts or ideas overpower or diminish any one else s. It is your job to make sure that all the students learn from each other. Every class is an evolving, dynamic entity wherein learning takes place on levels above and beyond the boundaries of the written curriculum.

People hunger to be appreciated and validated as worthwhile individuals with gifts and talents to share. Inevitably there are times in the classroom setting when students needs are not met. This may include feeling excluded from the group, having a perceived lack of power or leadership skills, or fear of failure. Other times students may feel their identity or values are being negated. They may perceive a lack of acceptance for their ideas or a disrespect of their personal goals. Just like the ignored toddler who acts out with frustration and anger, adults will react in several different ways. They either withdraw, becoming the quiet overlooked student in the back of the classroom, or feeling that negative recognition is better than none at all, become the hand waving, "look-at-me" student monopolizing the conversation. Assist the student in identifying what is troubling him/her and set out a plan for overcoming the issue(s).

When dealing with conflicts keep calm, be assertive, and use a neutral voice. Have a private discussion with each involved student reminding them of their agreements. Use statements such as, "We agreed that..." "Help me understand what caused you to break the agreement." "What can be done to reestablish the agreement?" or "What actions do you need to take to not break the agreement?"

Classroom management may also include class meetings to prevent problems. Establish specific procedures and use tools such as a talking stick or agendas. Train some students to be facilitators, recordkeepers, or timekeepers. Give students the ability to manage themselves by discussing potential problems and creating solutions ahead of time to avoid possible conflicts. Once classroom agreements are established, it is your role as facilitator to consistently maintain the integrity and purpose of those agreements. By doing so, you build trust, security, and a sense of fairness in dealing with your students.

Strive to promote a classroom atmosphere of cooperation versus competition. This allows and encourages each student to reach their maximum learning potential in a peaceful and relaxed atmosphere. At the same time they learn how to cooperate with each other'a lesson they will take with them into their careers.

Classroom Capers

TOPIC: Pass Your Problems

Objective: To obtain several possible solutions or suggestions for students current challenges or problems in the classroom.

Procedure: Form groups of 6 students in a circle or around tables. Ask each student to think about a current classroom problem or concern and write the problem on a blank sheet of paper. After allowing a few mintues to think and write about their problems, ask each student to pass the problem to the right. That person silently reads the problem and has 30 seconds to jot down the first thought(s) that come to mind. Then each student passes the paper to the right again. Repeat this process until each student gets back his/her own sheet.

Discussion Questions: What are some of the practical solutions offered? Did anyone discover novel solutions that had not been previously considered? What value do some of the suggestions merit? What other ideas or solutions were triggered by these suggestions? What lesson does this teach about reaching out to others for guidance and assistance?

Materials Required: Paper, pencils

Time Required: 15-30 minutes.

Source: Adapted from Even More Games Trainers Play, by Edward E. Scannell and John W. Newstrom, who adapted it from Cookies from Home by Susan Brooks.

There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands. You seek problems because you need their gifts.
-- Richard Bach


Teacher Support Materials

We are dedicated to assisting you in providing quality business education so your students have every opportunity to succeed in their chosen career. We accomplish our objective using several mediums: written materials, web site resources, and one-to-one contact.

Our written materials include our Teacher's Manual, test questions that we e-mail to you for your convenience, syllabi covering 16, 33, and 50+ hours, and our Teacher's Aide Newsletters.

On our web site you will find our Teacher's Corner. While this section is under construction, we do have our 50+ hour syllabus which can be copied and utilized to enhance or create your curriculum. Also, a sampling of the contents and excerpts from our Teacher's Manual is available for those who want to get an idea of what it entails. We are working on the other sections which include back issues of the Teacher's Aide Newsletter, Teachers Workshops and Teaching Tips.

On our site we also have an Articles and Publications section that has various articles written by Cherie Sohnen-Moe where you can gleen additional business information for your students.

We are always available to assist you in any way we can! Please feel free to call us at 800-786-4774 with questions about using our materials, how to integrate the book into your curriculum or just to chat about related issues.

We look forward to continuing to support you in providing excellence in education!

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Write a Feature Article

We send special thanks to Laurel Freeman and Melissa Sheets for their contributions to the Teacher's Aide Newsletter! If you are interested in writing a feature article for the newsletter, please call SMA at 800-786-4774 or e-mail us. We welcome you as a guest writer and look forward to sharing your knowledge and experience with our colleagues!

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Tips to Avoid Class Conflict

  • Have the students create and sign a learning contract and discuss each item.
  • Discuss respect and honoring each individual s ideas and contributions.
  • Build an interpersonal climate. Create bonds among classmates. Encourage open discussions about things that personally effect each student. Limit the time for this and make sure everyone gets a chance to contribute.
  • Create an atmosphere of safety. One way to promote group trust is by addressing privacy and confidentiality issues.
  • Avoid overt competition as much as possible. Instead promote classroom cooperation.
  • Pair up partners by drawing numbers. This helps to avoid the problems of the person who never gets chosen or the buddies that never interact with any other classmates.
  • Preserve a constructive learning environment by demonstrating respect for students dignity.
  • Be honest and demand honesty.
  • An introduction exercise is a useful tool for building affinity. Sharing pictures, quotes, short readings, and hobbies works well also.
  • Believe in and convey the value of each student.
  • Prompt student contributions in a non-threatening manner by drawing out and noting their interests.

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