Kinds of School Conflict Teachers May Face

There is a myriad of conflict in a school. Teachers face conflict with parents, other teachers, colleagues, administration, and coaches. As professionals, we learn to work with other adults and either agree to disagree or compromise and come to a solution. Ultimately, as long as we keep students first and foremost in our decisions and do what is best for their social, emotional, and academic success, we can say we have done our jobs.

The hardest conflict a teacher faces is conflict between students within the classroom, on the playground, or in the cafeteria. Students often get frustrated with each other over a group project, partner reading, a social issue, or even something they are wearing. While we teach reading, writing, math, science, and social studies—we also have to teach kids how to resolve conflict with each other. Many kids come to school without having this tool in their pocket, which makes our job more difficult. However, we want what is best for our students, and we want them to be able to cope in the real world, so we teach them this too.

What is Conflict Resolution?

Conflict resolution is the art of picking a strategy that you have learned to help you come to an agreement, a compromise, or an understanding to let the issue go and move on. Kids have to learn that it is okay to disagree with someone as long as you are respectful and use kind words. Kids also have to learn that it is okay to feel upset, angry, or even sad as long as you express yourself and your feelings appropriately and not in other ways such as hitting, kicking, or throwing a fit.

Conflict Resolution Strategies to Use in Your Class

There are multiple ways to teach kids how to solve conflicts. Here are just a few, and if you are interested in learning more, you can always consult with your school’s counselor or do additional research.

Peace Path

This is a great strategy to teach kids how to talk through a problem. This is literally a path that you make for kids to walk on as they talk it out. The student who feels they were hurt or wrong begins on the yellow footprints and the person they have the conflict with starts on the green footprints.

The teacher would want to walk through them with this and model it with a fake scenario for the class a few times but ultimately use it as a tool where students could go to work through a conflict on their own without an adult. You would just take the template and create one for the floor of your classroom with stickers or a mobile one that you could take with you to recess/outdoor activity.

Better Choices Wheel

This is a visual tool to teach kids to choose when they can’t decide how they want to solve their conflict. Again, the teacher would want to model this for students and talk through it with them a few times. Then it could be placed in each student’s desk or a folder or you could even make a big poster and hang it up in the classroom. You can also choose whether you want to put an actual spinner on it or if you want kids to choose their own strategy from the wheel. A quick Google search will give you a ton of other options—you could also co-construct one with your students so they have more buy-in and see their own ideas on the wheel.

How Big is My Problem?

Some kids think everything is a disaster and are less mature than we would like them to be at their age. Everyone is different and matures at different rates and that’s okay! We have to teach kids to self-regulate and self-monitor.

This simple 1-5 chart is a great way to start! If you teach younger students, you’ll probably want to make the explanation shorter and put it in more kid-friendly terminology. However, the ultimate goal here is again to teach kids when they have a problem they have another tool in their belt to use to help. This could be used as a poster in the classroom or you could choose to use it with a few individual students as needed.

Calm Down Kit

This is an excellent tool for teaching kids to try something else to get their mind off of what is making them so upset. We had local training on this strategy, and it is really amazing to hear some of the research behind why this works.

You make a space in your classroom where students go to use the calm down kit. Of course, again, the teacher would model the proper use, procedures, and expectations when a student needs to go there. At first a teacher might have to send a child there (just to remind them, not as punishment). Ultimately, this is a box of little gadgets and sensory items that let the child take a few minutes to regroup and literally calm down.

Sometimes this is not even about conflict with another student…it can be something the child is struggling with that they are upset about or something that happened at home the night before or even that morning before they came to school. The teacher can include a template for the students to write about why they are upset. That is completely optional and it may not be needed for your classroom or students.

Another way you could approach this is for students to have a feelings journal they keep at their desk, and after utilizing the calm down kit, they could go and do a reflection and all of their entries would be in one place and the teacher or counselor could use it to have follow-up discussions with the student.

Good luck with all of these strategies and teaching kids to resolve conflict—it is definitely a life skill that we all need, and it helps to learn it when you are young so it becomes a part of you.

*Updated April 2021