“Teacher, Johnny hit me!” – Not My Problem


Image courtesy of Parents.com

How often do we hear a littany of complaints from our young learners:  “Teacher, Johnny hit me!”, “Teacher, Emily took my pencil!”, “Teacher, Billy isn’t paying attention!”?  When I first started teaching young learners, my immediate reaction was to be the problem-solver, to fix the situation for the students.  Luckily, I worked at a daycare with some great teachers who always had a saying, “I’m sorry.  I don’t listen to tattling.  Why don’t you talk to Child about how you feel?”.  Many children use tattling as a form of attention-getting, revenge, or a way to assert power over another, none of which foster a caring and supportive classroom.

That’s why, these days, when a child tells me another child hit him/her, I say, “Not my problem.  You deal with it.”  Just kidding :) .  But I definitely don’t solve the problem for them.  I think it’s so important for children to learn conflict resolution skills at an early age.  Helping children to deal with difficult situations, control their emotions, and communicate effectively will serve them well for the rest of their life.

Instead of being the problem-solver, I simply act as a mediator.  I help the children openly discuss their feelings with each other and encourage them to look at the situation from the other’s point of view.  I then encourage them to discuss solutions.  This process isn’t always easy and children will need lots of support, but the pay off is more than worth the time and investment.

Do you have any personal success stories using this type of mediation?  How effective is it in your classrooms?  Do you have other preferred methods of conflict resolution with young learners?

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Conflict Resolution with YLs

5 Comments

  • By the_seadreamer, April 10, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

    Hi,your blog title took my attention;the reason is I’m a Turkish and a teacher.Your blog is interesting especially your observations about Turkey and Turkish people.I’m going to follow and read more.
    Yes,unfortunately this is one of the main problems we have to deal with in our classrooms.This year I’m woking at a primary school and my first two months have passed with handling with such these problems:(
    I think that the solutions change according to the sts and the problem.But mostly I say my students that time is very important and we are in the classroom to learn new things and I would listen these problems outside the classroom and they can write me about the problem if it’s really serious.I believe that the students who are dependent on somebody need to solve their problems with the help of an adult.I used to have problems at school too but I used to prefer not complaining about them,I always solved them by myself and with the help of my peers.I think this is the process we have to teach our pupils how to be an indiviual or an adult.

  • By DaveDodgson, April 11, 2012 @ 1:17 am

    Always a tough one, especially when you haven’t seen what actually happened. If you don’t keep a handle on the situation, very soon you may have two groups of kids each shouting out their version of what happened!

    I had one incident in class today with two boys trying to snatch a pencil sharpener off each other which ended in both of their books being ripped… The first thing I did was to get inbetween them and I then got the rest of the class back in their seats and told them to get on with what they were doing. I had a quick word with both boys to tell them I wanted to continue with the lesson and I expected them to talk about it after class when they had calmed down. Thankfully, there was no more trouble and they were happy to make friends again at breaktime.

    Had I waded in shouting “what’s going on here?” and “who started it?”, I’m sure it wouldn’t have ended so amicably…

  • By turklis1, April 18, 2012 @ 12:52 pm

    Hi Dilek,

    I think the point you mention about having the time to handle such problems is a key issue for many teachers, myself included. While helping to teach children to resolve conflicts in responsible ways is a goal I think most of us have, it takes a lot of time and time is not something a lot of teachers have. Even for myself, I’m against punishments in the classroom, but when I’ve got 15 kids whose L1 I can’t speak and things are falling apart, I just don’t have time to settle all those issues appropriately. Sometimes we have to employ a lot of different strategies, even unfavorable ones to at least get to a point where we can try something else.

  • By turklis1, April 18, 2012 @ 12:52 pm

    Great example! Thanks Dave.

  • By Melissa Thomas, October 24, 2013 @ 1:39 pm

    I’ve experienced this. I have experienced many students coming to me because they are being bullied by their classmates. I agree with you that we should foster conflict or problem-solving skills among children. As teachers we shouldn’t be taking sides, and like what you said, we should act as mediators.

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