Parents and teachers both have the same objective—to ensure the best possible education for the child/student.
So why is it that what seems to be mutually aligned outcome sometimes goes off the rails?
Students may misunderstand each other. Teachers may disagree on resource allocation. Parents may have strong views on how the school should be—emotions can run high because of a variety of issues. The potential for conflict exists because people have different needs, views and values. The challenge for schools and the wider community is to find ways of managing conflict constructively so that those involved can learn and grow from the experience.
Often student grades are blamed on teachers and teachers in turn may blame it on parents. Parents think teachers are not paying enough attention to their children, when in fact it’s often not the case at all. Tensions can build until an argument ensues.
It comes as no surprise that parents often fail to observe problems with their child’s behavior or their own parenting skills that can inflict their childs behavior, when it may be apparent or even obvious to others. Natural affection often blindsides parents.
Mediation is a positive problem-solving process that can prevent conflicts and misunderstandings from becoming protracted and destructive disputes. It aims to help people resolve their differences. It helps disputing parties to assess their options realistically and reach mutually acceptable solutions.
The mediation process encourages future focused co-operation. It is a structured and goal-directed process that follows clear steps and resolves disputes confidentially. As an independent third party, the mediator helps the parties to talk with one another and listen and reflect on one another’s point of view. This, in itself takes the subjectivity out of the equation and replaces it with objectivity.
Through exchanging points of view, the parties gain insight into how the other is feeling about the situation, and in turn, opens the way for understanding and respect. The mediator focuses discussion between the parties on problem solving rather than blame and punishment.
While other methods of conflict resolution in schools may involve a solution or decision being imposed upon the parties by someone in authority, mediation invites parties to formulate their own solutions and take responsibility for their actions.
Why does mediation work?
For people to be satisfied with the way a dispute or problem has been resolved, they need to feel that:
- The process was fair. For example, that their issues were heard and understood and that their needs were met
- The agreement or decision reached was reasonable
- The relationship between parties has been helped by the process
- They can manage their relationship in the future
What can be mediated?
Many common conflicts in schools can be mediated. Some examples of student/student, parent/parent, teacher/teacher, parent/school, teacher/student and teacher/administration disputes are listed below.
- Name calling
- Friendship problems
- Property Issues
- Teaching strategies
- Personal style
- Duties allocation
- Working conditions
- Student management
- Class or form group allocation
- Catering for individual learning needs
- Personality clashes
- Work loads
- School responsibilities