A significant number of teachers have reported to me lately that they’ve noticed a major spike in conflict between students, in terms of both frequency and severity.  This observation runs parallel to a deterioration in overall cohesion and conduct.

It’s concerning.

But it also leaves we educators at a critical fork in the road.

If we choose the role of arbiter in student conflicts, then our workload just multiplied.  Put simply, you’re going to investigate incidents more vigorously, make more judgements based on biased evidence and frustrate more people who are dissatisfied with your rulings.

Or … we could seize this moment to teach our students a simple methodology for resolving their own conflicts.  I’d suggest that a three step Past > Present > Future model would do the trick.

Its simplicity provides an easy entry point for us to know and understand.  It’s application to a variety of conflict scenarios can be trickier … but I just reckon you’re more than capable of that.

This would position you as a facilitator when conflict arises, rather than the arbiter.  And in time, you can actually make yourself redundant.  This is chiefly because the students, as with any practiced skill, also get better.

Schools are not judicial systems; they are learning systems.

It’s time we taught a healthier attitude to conflict and its resolution … for our own sanity if nothing else.

Keep fighting that good fight,

PS. Some schools are already getting this, amongst other components of the restorative framework, more than right. Take a look at the cases of Richmond Primary School and Geelong Lutheran College for a taste of what’s possible.

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