Thursday, April 18, 2013

Difference between school conflict and school bullying

Conflict is a disagreement or a difference of opinion or interests between equals. The people involved in a conflict may disagree  vehemently and emotions may run high. When conflict is badly managed, it may
result in aggression. In a conflict, both parties have power to influence the  situation. That is their goal.


Conflict may be an inevitable part of group dynamics, but bullying is not. In each, a different response is required.When schools consider implementing a peer conflict resolution model, it is important to ensure that the selected model is not applied in bullying situations, and that it does not replace adult support.
 
Knowing how to resolve conflicts without resorting to aggression is an important skill for students and adults. Various models for conflict resolution in school environments exist. Peer mediation, and other methods are aimed at cultivating dialogue between the students involved in the conflict. Unfortunately, these methods for conflict resolution are sometimes mistaken for bullying intervention strategies. This can lead to damaging and even dangerous situations. Imagine, as a student who has been bullied, being required to face your tormentor to explain the impact of the bullying, then having to listen to the perspective of the tormentor. We would never expect this of an adult.

When the elements that characterize bullying are present in a situation where there is aggression, conflict resolution is  not a recommended response. Instead, adults need to ensure the safety of the student who is targeted and ensure that the student (or students) who has
bullied, or encouraged the bullying, takes responsibility for his or her
actions. Characteristics of a bullying situation include:
  • An imbalance of power;
  • The intent to harm;
  • Worsens with repetition over time;
  • The distress of the child or teen being bullied, often including fear or
    terror;
  • Enjoyment of the effects on the child or teen being bullied by the person
    (people) doing the bullying;
  • The threat – implicit or explicit – of further
    aggression.
Strategies and Activities for the K-8 students:

  1. Develop students’ problem-solving skills:
    • Read a book where bullying is a key element of the story. Assign small
      cooperative teams to brainstorm problem-solving options, and write alternative
      endings to the story.
    • Ask for students’ help in generating and evaluating options for resolving
      challenging situations.
    • Model appropriate problem-solving by ‘thinking out loud’ as
      you work through the steps to solve a problem with the class.
  2. Promote healthy relationships between children:
    • Brainstorm with students about qualities that make a good friend, and about
      ways of making and keeping friends.
    • Have students create a bulletin board that displays words and/or pictures
      depicting friendship.
    • Encourage students to explore issues of friendship in
      literature. Discuss the social skills that are involved.
  3. Encourage safe reporting:
    • Place a box or a container in the classroom. Ask students to contribute
      (anonymously) their concerns about bullying, including ideas for making their
      classroom a safe, strong and free place. As necessary, meet privately
      with students about their concerns.
    • Hold weekly class meetings to discuss related issues that are of general
      interest. During meetings, ensure that students’ confidentiality is
      respected at all times.
    • Demonstrate your commitment to listening to students and
      keeping them safe by implementing ideas generated by the class through the box
      or in class discussions.
  4. Build common values:
    • Develop a ‘contract’ to keep everyone safe in the classroom. Brainstorm
      ideas with students for treating each other fairly and respectfully. Involve
      them in discussion about these ideas. Have students and teacher(s) sign the
      contract and post it in a prominent place.
    • Use the language in the contract when there is a problem. Encourage students
      to refer back to the contract to promote the ideas of fairness and respect.
    • Examine various societies (Pioneers, Native Peoples,
      Ancient Egyptians, Aztecs, etc.) Write a report on how common values such as
      teamwork and respect helped them.
  5. Teach assertiveness:
    • Brainstorm with students a list of constructive ways of expressing their
      needs in difficult situations. Post the list in the classroom and distribute it
      to students.
    • Develop a list of positive ways to deal with conflict. Students can add to
      list when they experience or witness new ways to.
    • Role play the ideas the class generates or use the ideas
      for the ‘social goal’ in cooperative learning activities.
  6. Emphasize cooperation and collaboration:
    • Avoid making comments about individual student performance in front of other
      students (Publicly announcing scores fosters a power structure in the
      classroom.)
    • As there are many different types of intelligence's and abilities, encourage
      students to value the different strengths of others.
    • Create a bulletin board upon which students and school staff can affix notes
      thanking people for kind or supportive actions.
    • Ensure a balance between competitive and non-competitive games and
      activities. Organize groups and teams with balanced strengths and competencies.
      Avoid situations in which students select their own teams.
    • Work with students on a community service project. Find ways to involve all
      students by finding their interests or competencies.
    • Involve students in creating a welcoming classroom for new
      students. Assign a student to be a mentor to a new child for the first two weeks
      in the classroom. Involve all students in making posters or cards to give to a
      new student on her or his first day, as well as a list of all students and their
      favourite foods, sports, games, subjects, after-school activity, TV show,
      etc.
  7. Foster empathy:
    • Identify and encourage the use of a range of ‘feeling words’. Post this list
      in the classroom and distribute to students.
    • Give students creative-writing assignments in which they explore their
      feelings and others’ feelings.
    • Find opportunities to encourage empathy in discussion of
      current events, literature and historical or school situations. Ask students to
      describe the feelings of people involved, as well as their own feelings.
  8. Use humor as a positive
    influence:

    • Write an inoffensive joke on the board each morning before the students
      arrive in class.
    • Discuss the differences in humour that devalues or mocks
      people and humour that doesn’t do so. Showcase stories or books with positive
      humour. 
By, Dr. Claudio V. Cerullo, Ph.D., West Chester University of Pennsylvania

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