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Conflict is a normal part of any type of community. There are different seniority levels, professional licensures and cultures within a school community. These differences, if not well-managed, may lead to power struggles and tension.
The close-knit nature of a school community can lead to personal boundaries being crossed and communication becoming too familiar. When that happens and people are offended, morale can suffer.
Conflict is not necessarily a bad thing: It can create an opportunity for understanding differences and the values of others. Members of a teaching team may not agree on using the same materials or lesson plans, and they may have different communication styles. While this can cause conflict, it can also be advantageous for their students. The team members can learn from different styles of teaching and a range of ideas, and they can gain an appreciation for different ways to learn. Sometimes the best ideas emerge from a clash of viewpoints.
Here are some universal strategies to help resolve workplace conflicts:
- When you are in a conflict, stop and breathe. Take a step away and avoid severing a work relationship by saying something you might regret later.
- Validate the other person’s feelings by acknowledging that person’s opinion, but don’t ignore your own.
- Use humor, when appropriate, to relax a tension-filled environment.
- Talk about behaviors that are bothering you, not someone’s personality. Use concrete examples such as, “It made me upset when you spoke over me at the staff meeting.”
- Be committed to listening without interrupting; set healthy boundaries for yourself and others.
- Try to find common ground; be open to a resolution of the conflict in a different way than you envisioned. Agree to negotiate; agree to disagree.
- Remember that everyone has a right to an opinion.
- Be aware of your role in the conflict and be accountable for your own actions.
The UFT Member Assistance Program offers short-term counseling and outside referrals to help you deal with a wide range of issues. You can contact MAP by calling 212-701-9620 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Appointments and referrals are available Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 50 Broadway in Manhattan.
What is your favorite movie about a teacher?
Dead Poets Society
Stand and Deliver
Mr. Holland's Opus
Total votes: 700