Conflict Resolution Programs With Inner City Program Concept


Abstract Pg. 1
Institution Pg. 2
Target Audience Pg. 2
Types of Conflict Pg. 2
Conflict Resolution Program Pg. 1-11
References Pg. 12


As an educator in an inner city school I have had unique observational opportunities pertaining to conflict situations. For the past five years I have been teaching five Reading classes daily. Last year, I achieved my licensure in guidance counseling. Come September I will be making the transition to the position of guidance counselor at the same school. I am very excited about the change! Keeping within the confines of the (SLP) assignment, I have chosen to develop a conflict resolution program (CRP) that I could use next year with the students at my school. I wanted to address the five biggest areas of conflict that I have witnessed at my school. These areas include: test anxiety, authority, bullying, communication, and school (as a whole). It is my intention to develop this CRP and implement the strategies discussed in this course next year.

“None of us can be free of conflict and woe. Even the greatest of men have had to accept disappointments as their daily bread.”- Bernard M. Baruch (Cook 506).

The school that I selected is South Junior High School, located in Brockton, Massachusetts. The school services approximately 700 students in grades seven and eight. There are four junior high schools in Brockton, Massachusetts. There are fifty-two faculty members at South Junior High School.

Target Audience:
The target audience for this (CRP) is the student body of South Junior High School. (ages 11-15) In September, I will be the guidance counselor for half of the school population. Each school year, South Junior High receives 350 new students, coming from the ten elementary feeder schools.

Types of Conflict:
Substantive conflict is a conflict that many teenagers experience with parents. This type of conflict involves discourse with everyday issues. These issues may include decisions, ideas, direction, and/or action. Teenagers typically do not agree with their parent’s decisions concerning school. Here is an example of a discussion I overheard recently between a junior high student and her mother: “School stinks”, Jessica said to her mom. “Teachers are always hassling me, and I don’t deserve it. I never learn anything. They don’t teach me. I just copy notes. It’s a waste of time.” “I’m sure you’re exaggerating,” said her mom. “You always get good grades, so why are you complaining? Besides, you have to stay in school. What else would you do? I want you to go to high school. You’re not stupid. It would be a waste for you not to go.” The girl responded, “I don’t want to go to high school. I’m going to drop out and get a job. School is no fun!”

The conflict described here is a substantive conflict because it deals with a disagreement of issues. The student hates school and wants to drop out. The mother does not want her daughter to drop out of school and wants her to continue her education at the high school level. The conflict is about decisions and direction. The daughter has decided to quit school. The daughter views her own direction as joining the work force. However, the mother has a different idea and perception for her daughter. She sees her daughter going to high school, perhaps even going to college later, and “then” getting a job. Typically, this type of conflict between a teen-ager and her mother will result in the child using “avoidance” strategies to end the conflict. The child would rather just drop the discussion. The child is exhausted listening to what she considers a “lecture” and would rather engage in a “lose-lose” situation just to stop the conflict. The source of this conflict stems from the child hating school and seeing the “real-world” as the answer. However, the parent has the advantage of living in the “real-world” and also experiencing junior high school. Although times were different in the 1970’s, daughters wanted to drop out of school then, and parents attempted to talk them out of it just like in this situation. The difference is that there are more occurrences now with junior high students reaching the age of 16 and wanting to drop out. The needs, wants, and beliefs of the mother and child are different. This has caused the conflict as the two do not see eye to eye on the subject of “the importance of education.”

In the CRP I will introduce next year, it will entail encouraging parents to use the following strategies to resolve the above outlined conflict:

“The greatest discovery of my generation is that man can alter his life simply by altering his attitude of mind”. (Cook 261).

I have always felt that communication is the key to successful conflict resolution. The parent and child need to communicate. They need to discuss the ideas and perceptions they currently guard and consider “truth”. The three things the parent must do is talk about the high value you place on school for your teen, involve yourself in your teen’s school and schooling, and help your teen do her best.

What to Say and Do:
Talk to your teen about what her life will be like if she succeeds in school. Say such things as:
�· Do you know why school is so important to you?
Ã?· You don’t have to be a brain, but you do have to do well enough to graduate.
�· At your age school has to be one of your highest priorities.

Talk about the options a high school diploma and a degree will give her. Say such things as:
Ã?· Let’s talk about the types of jobs you can only get if you have a diploma.
�· A diploma will get you into college and will give you more options later.
�· Are you having problems at school? What can I do to help you succeed?

Things NOT to say:
Ã?· You don’t have the brains to do well in school. You ought to go out and get a job.
Ã?· You don’t have to go to school if you don’t want to. You’d be better off quitting.
Ã?· You can’t do the homework, so just give up on it.
Ã?· I’m not interested in hearing about your schoolwork.
Ã?· I don’t have the time to do my work and help you with yours as well.
Ã?· I can’t make parent-teacher conferences. I don’t have time.

Words and phrases to use in your discussion:
1. academics
2. career
3. college
4. degree
5. do your best
6. education
7. get involved
8. good student
9. hard work
10. I’ll help you
11. minimum wage
12. options
13. persevere
14. priorities
15. success

Another type of conflict that I have witnessed is a personalized conflict. This conflict is basically a situation where the two people do not like one another. I have found this to be prevalent in some teacher-student relationships. Even the vice-principal at my school has documented facts supporting the notion that certain teachers “throw-out” the same students to the office for classroom disruptions. It is obvious in cases such as this that there is a personalized conflict that in most cases will never be resolved and has been occurring since the start of the school year. The substantive conflict detailed previously is typically a good opportunity to open communication lines. However, a personalized conflict is not very productive. In fact, many personalized conflicts are motivated by emotions only. Due to the anger and frustration, the personalized conflict does not find the resolve that it needs. Many personalized conflicts involve students having the inability to deal with teacher authority.

Many students at South Junior High School do not live with their fathers. Most of these students couldn’t pick their father out from a lineup. These students hold resentment towards their fathers and are being raised by their mothers and grandmothers. This resentment and anger is also sometimes seen in male student-male teacher relationships. The student is immature and unwilling or unable to identify the conflict as having resentment to a missing father. The student is not able to honestly admit that they are not angry with the teacher. The male student does not trust the male teacher and does not feel that the teacher deserves his respect. In many cases the student and teacher struggle for power and dominance of the classroom. The teacher has the responsibility to educate the entire class and by expelling the student from the classroom on a daily basis only to better the remaining 29 students, the teacher’s actions are considered justified. In my (CRP) the following situation would be handled as such:

To teenagers who resist teachers’ authority and occasionally get into trouble at school, say such things as:
Ã?· Your teacher seems unhappy with your behavior in class. Why don’t you like him?
�· We need to talk about school and find out why you are behaving the way you are.
Ã?· We think we need to have a conference with your teacher, and we want you to be there with us. It’s about your unwillingness to do what he tells you to do in class.
�· If you were the teacher, what would you expect from your students?

Things NOT to say:
Ã?· We’re not going to discuss it. Just do what we say.
Ã?· How stupid can you be? Just do what you’re told.
Ã?· There’s no room for talk.

Words and phrases to use in your discussion:
1. acceptance
2. maturity
3. obedience
4. respect
5. responsibility
6. willingness
7. understanding
8. things you should do
9. people who want to help you
10. making trouble for yourself
11. for everyone else’s good
12. legal authority

“A man should not strive to eliminate his complexes but to get into accord with them, for they are legitimately what directs his conduct in the world”. – Sigmund Freud (Cook 325).

This year at my school I have been delegated as “third in command”, which means that if the vice-principal is out of the building, I assume the responsibilities of the vice-principal. I imagine that this year will be the last year in this role because next year as a guidance counselor will be a conflict of interest. It is unable to be an advocate on one hand and be a discipline figure on the other. However, while in this role I have encountered many conflicts involving bullying.

Students are encouraged to approach the office if they feel threatened or feel as if they are going to get into a fight due to the conflict. At my school we have what I refer to as “Jerry Springer Syndrome” where the students start rumors about each other only to start fights among unsuspecting students. These students, typically called “instigators” are similar to those that put two cats together and hope for a fight. The best way to handle these types of conflicts is to have both parties in the same room and discuss the indifference. It is interesting to witness the personal styles adopted by these students. For example, the student who is the aggressor, or the “bully”, usually takes upon a “goalie” style of communication. These types of people try to consume the conversation and talk a lot. They talk a lot for two reasons: to persuade and distract guilt and because they truly feel as if they have all the answers to everything. In the role of vice-principal I have always brought the two parties together in the same room to quell any rumors or potential altercations. In most cases, the conflict has risen because of other students not involved in the direct conflict. In face-to-face communications such as this it is important to make notice of verbal and non-verbal messages and to be a good listener.

Examples of verbal messages include tone of voice, usage of idioms and expressions, and how things are said. Examples of non-verbal messages include eye contact, eyebrow raising, smiling, frowning, and nervousness. Listening is very important because it is the time when information is gathered so that it can be readily analyzed and the potential conflict can be evaluated. The best approach for such a conflict is a bilateral method referred to as collaborative or principled negotiation. This type of conflict resolution is when two sides meet to find a compromise. The purpose of this method is to establish a middle ground and for both parties to leave the conflict with a “win-win” outcome.

It is during this initial discussion that I, as the educator, administrator, and adult, determine if I need to present an alternative dispute resolution by becoming a third party member of the discussion. I would only engage in this method if all bilateral and unilateral methods had been exhausted at this point. My role as third party would be to attempt “peer-mediation” whereas both parties discuss options with me to resolve the conflict. The last thing the children want is to fight. However, in the eyes of their peers, if they don’t fight, they are considered “wimps”. Through mediation in the vice-principals office, most of the conflicts can be resolved with good discussion. In this role I would adopt a style of “datacrat” which is being organized, taking notes, and basing my decisions on analyzing the discussion of both parties. It would be easy to yell at them and send them on their way, however, that would not solve anything. By the end of the school day the two same students would be back in the office for fighting.

“No greater burden can be born by an individual than to know none who cares or understands.”-Arthur H. Stainback (Cook 91).

Conflict can happen in any situation. As long as two or more people, groups, teams, organizations, ethnic groups, and/or unions differ in their needs or wants, a conflict can occur. Each person perceives the world in hi/her own unique way. Like our own constitution states: “I may not agree with a word you are saying, but I will defend your right to say it”, the freedom of speech can lead to conflict. Very rarely will a conflict go away by itself. Students at my school commonly think that avoiding something means it does not exist. It is as if they are in an early form of denial.

I tell certain lazy students that their lack of effort will ultimately lead to their failure and that they will have to go to summer school or they will be retained in the same grade level. Many times these same students promise you the world and then they do not change anything, and come the following September, they are sitting in the same homeroom with the same teachers for a repeat of seventh grade.

Some conflicts are resolved by accommodating others. In this unilateral method, you basically “bite the bullet” and give into the other side despite your original conflicting notions. This is considered a “lose-win” situation. Many administrators find that it is easier to accommodate parents in times of conflict because the short-term affects are better than the possible long-term affects. Many parents threaten to “call down-town” which is equivalent to calling the mayor’s office or the superintendent. Most teachers aren’t worried by such a comment because the teacher’s union protects them. Teachers can use a competitive approach to conflict resolution because they are educated and by imposing a solution, the parent may not have the time or information needed to wage a battle. However, a principal is non-union and cannot be as bold with parents and will treat the threat as a promise.

Communication is the key to conflict resolutions. Parents, teachers, administrators, guidance counselors, and students need to communicate about everything. Communication involves more than one person; therefore, it fosters cooperation and compromise. I think it is important for my CRP to outline the importance of effective communication.

“Life is not complex. We are complex. Life is simple, and the simple thing is the right thing.”-Oscar Wilde (Cook 194)

What to say and do for parents/teachers with teenagers:
Ã?· What’s happening in school?
�· Any problems you want to talk about?
�· Tell me more about what was bothering you the other day.
�· I want to be more involved in your life.
�· From now on you can talk to me about anything you want, and I promise not to judge you.
Ã?· Let’s go for a walk. There are things I’ve been thinking about that I’d like to share with you.
�· Why are you feeling that way?
�· Those are harsh words. Do you really mean them?
Ã?· I don’t care what you say as long as we keep talking.

Words and phrases to use:
1. I won’t judge
2. I’ll make time
3. I’m listening
4. Let’s talk
5. relationship
6. take turns
7. tell me about it
8. together
9. what do you think
10. what do you want

What NOT to say:
1. You’re too young to know what’s right.
2. I don’t want to hear it.
3. Be quiet and listen to me.
4. How could you say such a thing?
5. I’m ashamed of you.

Teenagers need to know that they have a voice. The communication must start at home and it must build and prosper at school when the teenager is among his/her friends. Teachers need to recognize “teaching” moments when communication can be done to make a connection with a student. Teenagers face peer pressure, anxieties, identity crisis, and puberty. Conflict is bound to sprout from these daily occurrences. As adults, parents, educators, friends, role models, and supporters we can listen to their plights and let them know that they are not alone and that it is okay to have conflict in your life because conflict is inevitable. Open communication is the key to survival. Communication is key to life; it is key to all relationships (marriage, parenting, schooling, friendship, working).
Cook, John. (1993). The Book of Positive Quotations. Gramercy Books. NewYork, NY.

Lawler, E.J., Ford, R., & Large, M.D. (1999). Unilateral initiatives as a conflict resolution strategy. Social Psychology Quarterly. Washington: Sep 1999. Vol. 62, Iss. 3; p. 240 (17 pages).

Palmer, J. (2001). Conflict resolution: Strategies for the elementary classroom The
Social Studies. Washington: Mar/Apr 2001. Vol. 92, Iss. 2; p. 65 (4 pages).

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