RPEC Trains RPS Teachers For Conflict Resolution

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by Paul Fleisher

Nonviolent conflict resolution training has long been a cornerstone of the Richmond Peace Education Center’s programs. But here’s something you might not know: RPEC trainers have introduced conflict resolution techniques to about a thousand Richmond Public School teachers!

For each of the past six years, approximately 200 newly hired RPS educators have participated in a full afternoon workshop led by RPEC trainers, as part of their introductory week. For many, our participatory, experiential session is one of the highlights of their training, introducing them to practical strategies they can put to use in their classrooms and their personal lives.

As one of this year’s participants said in their post-workshop evaluations, “the exercises and role-playing will set the foundation for dealing with real-life situations.” Another respondent told us, “I gained insight into more ways to manage my students’ behavior, and how I deal with it.” RPEC’s new teacher workshops typically start with the circle of participants introducing themselves to one another. They then practice active listening techniques they can use with both students and other adults — including listening not just to the facts of a personal story, but also to the underlying feelings, values and needs that the speaker is expressing. “There’s more to listening than just hearing what a person said,” another teacher told us. Later in the session, they discuss methods of defusing anger both in themselves and their students. As one participant told us, “High schoolers need regular instruction and modeling of conflict resolution.” And another said, “[the workshop] reminded me of things to look for and do when problems and conflicts arise in class.”

Each teacher also received a 20-page packet of materials and instructions they can take with them to their new school.

This year’s session, carefully organized by RPEC’s Conflict Resolution Coordinator Santa Sorenson, used seventeen facilitators from the Peace Center’s conflict resolution training team.

We are especially grateful to Dr. Darlene Currie, director of Staff Development, for offering RPEC the opportunity to share our nonviolent conflict resolution strategies with adults who touch the lives of Richmond’s children every day.

Classroom conflicts are inevitable; how teachers and students address them can make all the difference.