Negotiation Management in Education

Conflict can be traced back to the days even as far back as Adam and Eve, when the two could not agree on eating fruit of the Earth. Conflict is part of life. The four recommended readings offer different views of negotiating in conflict situations. The suggestions are presented through law, business, and the healthcare field of industry. Negotiation works because of the ability to merge ideas, the anchoring to compromise, and the ability to solve the problem experiencing the least adverse affects. These same ideas can be utilized in the educational field.

The ability to merge ideas is first discussed by Smith, Tutor, and Phillips. They stress the importance of negotiation in the health field because of some patients inability to resolve conflict due to psychological issues. They stress merging ideas to form a resolution. Additionally, they stress the importance of keeping a positive attitude.

The writings of Smith, Tutor, and Phillips made me think of children. As a licensed guidance counselor in Massachusetts, I am constantly reminding people that my role is to be an advocate “for” the child. Similar to dealing with a frail patient in a hospital, children can also be unable to resolve conflict due to psychological issues. Keeping a positive attitude reminds educators why they entered the education field in the first place. I remind my colleagues weekly that each child is a battle. Although we may never win every battle, we in fact, must win the war. The war is to educate the future.

Compromise is the notion of giving a little to get a lot. Blitman writes about the negotiation procedures outlined by Dr. Thomas and Kilmann. Although, Thomas and Kilmann do not express preference over any certain negotiation style, they do add that people will naturally use the negotiating style which has given them the best results. Thomas and Kilmann offer competing, accommodating, avoiding, collaborating, and compromising as the different modes of negotiation.

In regards to education, the mode of negotiation that Thomas and Kilmann introduce, I find that compromising might be received better than others. Compromising indicates that both parties receive something. Compromise also includes an important word not mentioned in Blitman’s introduction: the word “promise”. A promise is the notion of trust and trust is an important notion of education. Children must trust their teachers. Teachers must trust their administration. Parents must trust the system.

Carrie Menkel-Meadow also discusses the notion of negotiations as solving a problem. Most importantly, solving a problem while achieving the best possible solutions for both parties. Of the four articles presented, Menkel-Meadow and Blitman were the most similar. The biggest difference was that the latter was focused on negotiations in the industry of law.
Marsh and Griffiths express their views from the vantage point of a business person. They view negotiations as a contract. They stress taking a more “direct” approach to negotiations. They also advise developing a hierarchy of steps. The purpose of the steps is to limit and control formality, adverse behavior, and cost to both parties.

As a guidance counselor, contracts are made all the time with students. We are constantly asking children to make contracts with themselves, parents, friends, and teachers. For example, we currently have at my school a student who constantly is asked to leave class due to bad behavior. The student is always in the office for discipline reasons. I asked the child if we could devise a contract of behavior? The contract would enlist the help and support of his family, friends, and cluster of teachers. This direct approach gives the child a reward system and self monitoring. He will not become the “angel child” overnight. However, he will be able to document and study his own behavior on a daily basis. Also, this child will be kept accountable for his behavior, something which has probably gone unchecked in his elementary setting.
Conflict in the educational field happens all the time.

Conflicts are not only among teachers and students. Teachers and administration are constantly “butting” heads trying desperately to walk the line between union rights and right of educational policy. Principals in my school system are not part of the teacher’s union. The vice-principal is part of the teacher’s union. That in itself is a conflict of interest. The principal is out there alone in his negotiating technique. Superintendents have always been public relations for the school system and the last thing they want to hear is conflict among staff. However, it happens all the time, behind closed doors. Using the ability to merge ideas, the openness to compromise, and the ability to solve the problem experiencing the least adverse affects on all who might be impacted are the best ways I see to approach conflicts in the educational field. We have to ask ourselves, what in fact are we negotiating for? We are negotiating to find the ends to a means. We are negotiating to resolve a conflict so that the most important person in education is not hurt: the child.

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