The Ultimate Guide to School Conflict Resolution

Teacher-To-Student Conflict Resolution

It’s inevitable in the teaching profession. You’re teaching a lesson, and one of your students acts up, disrupting your flow. As the teacher, what do you do?

While there’s no single, correct path of handling teacher-to-student conflicts, there are, however, several incorrect ways to go about it. Ultimately, compromise and understanding are the significant keys to effective conflict management.

Every teacher will encounter the need for student confrontation. Because this is an unavoidable part of the job, all educators must prepare themselves with the appropriate emotional tools to handle teacher-to-student conflict.

What are the Causes of Teacher to Student Conflict?

It’s hard to count all the possible reasons for classroom conflict situations. Maybe someone isn’t paying attention because they got bullied on the way to class. A student who regularly responds with sarcasm may be stressed about returning to a toxic household. Resolving conflict can be complex for teachers when it comes to their students.

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Student Engagement Can Be a Significant Source of Conflict

Student engagement during a lesson is one of the top sources of teacher-to-student conflict. Students who noticeably are not paying attention or distracting others can be a cause for conflict in the classroom, as well as incredibly frustrating for many teachers. 

Student Disruption in the Classroom

Perhaps the most prevalent form of teacher-student conflict, disruption in the classroom jeopardizes learning for well-behaved students. When you only have an hour to execute your lesson plan, quick and effective conflict resolution is critical.

While you can’t prevent every emotional outburst, there are strategies you can use to manage them. However, before we get to that, it’s important to know why disruptions happen.

  • The student felt “attacked” in a previous confrontation
  • The student is bored
  • The student doesn’t feel emotionally engaged
  • Interpersonal conflicts with peers
  • Anxieties about being in class

There are many more possibilities, but what’s important to know is that disruption is rarely personal, even if it seems that way.

Challenging of a Teacher’s Authority

For some kids, the only proper authority figure is a parent. For others, no authority figure is worthy of their immediate respect. Students’ challenging a teacher’s authority is one of the most problematic disruptions in a classroom setting. When your role as a teacher is questioned, it can have a domino effect on other students.

Differing Ideals Between a Teacher and Student

Conflict can arise when a teacher’s ideal contradicts a student’s deeply held belief. For example, you may give a bad grade for a paper that doesn’t meet your requirements. The student who wrote it may criticize you and claim that “you don’t know what you’re doing.”

In this case, raising their grade to settle the dispute isn’t the correct thing to do. You must stand by your ideals. This is why you must seek to understand that student’s point of view, so you can display empathy and come to an understanding.

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How Can Teachers Handle Conflict with Their Students?

A critical part of teacher training is preparing and equipping educators with the best conflict resolution strategies. Fortunately, there are strategies successful teachers use to deal with students effectively. 

Choosing Where and When to Deal with Conflict

You must avoid “calling out” disruptive students — this can breed resentment. Instead, be stern but not harsh. Try saying something like, “I’m teaching right now. Wait until we finish class, and I’ll speak with you then.”

More complex issues may need time outside of class. If the student doesn’t ease up after you’ve tried several strategies, you’ll need to find time after class to address their behavior.

Listening to the Student is Important

Empathy is a teacher’s best emotional tool – listening is the best way to help students feel understood.

Many teachers have a hard time recognizing their students’ stress. Oftentimes educators are burdened with their own problems, making it hard to understand a student’s perspective. Nevertheless, listening to students is an integral part of teacher education and professional development. You’ll likely find that listening builds a great student relationship. Such positive interactions will undoubtedly boost your job satisfaction.

Avoid Addressing Conflict During Class Sessions

While you can manage disruptions during class, you can’t fully address the underlying cause of conflict during this time.

To keep conflict at bay, you need to address troublesome students one-on-one. While holding eager-to-leave students hostage after class ends isn’t ideal, you could consider starting the lesson a couple of minutes late to give yourself a chance to talk before class.

Control Your Tone of Voice as a Teacher

Tone is a significant part of how humans interact with one another. This is especially true between students and teachers. Emotional students, in particular, take the most meaning not from what you say but how you say it.

Speak softly, yet confidently, for the best results. If your tone reflects bitterness and resentment, students will give back the same attitude. For example, the phrase “Quiet down” can be said in many different ways. While the words may stay the same, a calm versus an angry tone will have vastly different outcomes in your classroom.

Use Empathy and Understand the Student’s Needs

A little bit of empathy goes a long way in helping students. You don’t need specialized training to be able to listen. The student may be dealing with anxieties or a personal issue. 

There are many deeper reasons that students act up. Even if it’s something that doesn’t justify the behavior, try to understand things from that student’s perspective. Ask several kind and thoughtful questions to get a clear picture of what’s going on. Not only will you get the data you need to figure how to deal with the student, but you’ll also build trust. Students who feel empathized tend to behave better in the classroom.

Discuss Next Steps with the Student Moving Forward

Easing conflict with a student is an ongoing process. You don’t want students to feel like you’re going to abandon their needs after speaking with them. If you do, they’ll likely continue disrupting your class. 

First, be confident that you and your student understand each other. Once you are, set clear expectations for how you expect the student to behave. Additionally, thoroughly explain to the student what you’ll be doing differently in the future.

An essential part of conflict resolution is compromise. You may have to give a little, and that’s okay. Students respond well when they feel like they’re not the only one giving something up. 

However, you shouldn’t sacrifice your boundaries to appease a misbehaved student. Instead, you should reward the student for their participation in settling a conflict. You could provide extra help with their most challenging topics or just be available to talk.

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Creating a Community-Driven School Environment

Having a community-driven school environment is paramount to settling teacher-student conflicts. You’ll be able to discuss your teaching experience with your colleagues. Consequently, this extra communication will allow everyone to share their best classroom management strategies.

Contact TEEN TRUTH to Help Build Your School’s Culture Today!

TEEN TRUTH is devoted to problem-solving in schools. We help educators and students work together to develop communication skills that benefit all parties! Contact TEEN TRUTH for additional information and resources on building a great school culture today.

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