Conflict Resolution, Or, The Story of My Nephew Henry.

“Our challenge is to see the seed or opportunity buried in the soil of conflict.”

Dedicated to my heart, my nephew E. Henry

Phoenix, Arizona is hot! Muy caliente! It’s so hot that afternoon school sports teams often practice in the evening, after the sun has set. Like many schools, the day begins by 8:00 a.m. and students are well engaged in the day’s activities. My last post discussed the importance of principals leading their schools via effective communication and being proactive in their interactions to avoid conflicts. But what happens after a conflict arises?

Conflict is inevitable and, in this case,  a distinct middle school’s leadership team found itself in steamy temperatures. I was mad. Confused. You see, upon landing in Phoenix in late August, I found a disturbing text message from my nephew, a rising seventh grader.

It was the second day of school and he was upset, which is quite rare. He went outside to cry in the school’s parking lot because he was told he could not try out for baseball.

For some reading this blog, that may not seem like a big deal but it is for my nephew, who never gives less than his absolute best. He doesn’t understand failure. His thought patterns are swimming in growth mindset beliefs. Failure to him is an opportunity to do something again, to encounter a higher, involved representation of his talents.

My sister and her husband scheduled a meeting with Henry’s principal.  I applaud them for uniting as a common force and speaking directly with leadership. Conflict is not managed in isolation but  is an ongoing process. You see, Henry’s family did not receive the information that they needed to submit additional materials needed for him to qualify for tryouts.

In other words, there was a breakdown in effective communication. How was the breakdown repaired?

Results of Henry’s Family’s Meeting with the Principal:

  • Students will be allowed to go directly to baseball tryouts. The school leadership team will clarify which students are going home and which are remaining in school.
  • All last-period teachers must receive a roster of students who are staying for try-outs prior to the day of try-outs. The school leadership must ensure rosters are distributed in a timely manner.
  • School leaders must communicate clearly with parents regarding required documentation for tryouts.
  • Communication should be conveyed in different electronic and print mediums. School leaders must continue to communicate effectively with families.

Moral: Communication must unite a school’s culture

What Stands in the Way of effective School Leadership?:
It is important to celebrate principals and talk about the positive impact they have on their schools. Every school and every student deserves effective leadership, but there are barriers to this goal. Many principals feel that they have multiple, often conflicting priorities and  not everything can always be done well. They have multiple constituencies—students, teachers, parents, school board members, and superintendents—and feel that they are always on call and must respond to the needs of those groups. Time is fragmented; principals speak of the intense effort needed to and time to focus on important issues when there are a myriad of administrative tasks that must be done. They feel that the leadership aspect of their job is shortchanged. What can they do differently?

Universal Areas of Growth for School Principals

  1. Ensure the most flexible person is available to support parents.
  2. Follow up with information sent out to parents.
  3. Know the whereabouts of all students at all time.
  4. Have a transparent chain of command, inclusive of parent volunteers.
  5. Provide on-training in conflict resolution for all staff members.
  6. Meet parents face-to-face to de-escalate the conflict
  7. Acknowledge parents’ position and find similarities to establish credibility.
  8. Set the tone the first week of school by having an open house.
  9. Train parents new to your school in electronic protocols in order to facilitate their arrival to the school’s community.
  10. Acknowledge as leaders that this your school.

Moral:  When you are a school leader, you do not have the luxury of waiting for convenient opportunities. You create such realities. Lead through conflict!

Henry confidently managed himself during the resolution of this conflict, so much so that he not only made his school’s baseball team but also the team of an independent baseball league. His role: pitcher! He is a leader. Does he serve in other roles on the team? Most certainly; after all, effective leadership supports the team. His school’s team’s coach was also his Social Studies teacher and Henry excelled in his class as well.

He is an 8th grader now. My presence in his life means that I believe in his goals. I am his Auntie. I am also an educator who believes every school and every student deserves effective leadership. My family and I will accept nothing less!


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