Nurturing Optimal Classroom Community for Culturally Responsive Conflict Resolution

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Overview: 

Students of conflict resolution laud facilitative mediation for its cultural responsiveness.

Objectives

  • Participants will understand ways to nurture classroom community for culturally responsive conflict resolution
  • Participants will reflect on specific aspects of their interaction with students

Materials

Framework
At its best, facilitative mediation creates positive multicultural spirit and climate, emphasizes careful, respectful listening, and results in the capacity necessary for constructive problem-solving. Its emphasis on personal (cultural) storytelling humanizes and naturally increases appreciation of "the other." Careful paraphrasing checks accuracy and completeness of understanding. Detoxifying, through reframing culturally charged language without losing essential meaning, helps communication continue through highlighting its benefits. Focus on interests that lead to some sense of shared need, or commonality, that transcend and bridge cultures. Last, but most exciting for some students, difference enhances creative option generation.

Several years ago, I asked students from around the world to evaluate the best of multicultural leadership, teaching and conflict process. Their most important experience was openly and honestly sharing and discussing feelings and opinions as they explored diverse experience. All valued encouragement to actively and seriously participate through telling their personal truth and listening to others. Skillful facilitators included and engaged all voices through exemplifying the best of open-minded sensitivity and careful listening to seek deep understanding.

In my own classrooms filled with preservice educators, classroom teachers and other practitioners, many believe that suspending judgment and treating all equally and fairly, or facilitating "equivalence of voices," is the most important guideline for cultural competence.

Students' second most popular recommendation is to have and show a true desire to understand cultures in depth and complexity. "No detail is too small." Related, once again, is the ability to encourage others to share "their uniqueness." Teachers and counselors can do so with attentiveness, sensitivity and sincere appreciation.

Other recommendations include: (1) giving speakers, whose first language is not English, sufficient time and patient attention, and (2) noticing and astutely responding to possible discomforts.

Suggested Procedures

  • Introduce the professional activity by summarizing the framework, above.
  • Ask teachers to complete the handout (PDF) individually.
  • Ask teachers to share and reflect in pairs.
  • As a follow-up activity, encourage partners to observe one another in the classroom and provide feedback on what they see.