Conflict in Schools
Conflict in schools is becoming more and more common for a variety of reasons. Parents want to be more involved in their children’s education while teachers want the autonomy to be able to teach without helicopter parents breathing down their throats.
When we think of conflict in schools, we often think of two students being in conflict or a student and a teacher having an issue, or perhaps the parents and a teacher. However, a common conflict that exists is that between teachers and principals. How do you navigate this conflict?
Reasons for Principal/Teacher Conflict
Problems and conflict between faculty (teachers) and the principal can arise for a variety of reasons. These might include:
- older staff members being resentful of a younger principal
- new state-wide teaching guidelines that teachers don’t approve of but must be enforced (ie. CommonCore)
- a principal trying to implement new policies
- cutting of budgets in certain departments but not in others
How Do You Work Through Principal/Teacher Conflict?
As with any negotiation or conflict resolution, there is going to have to be some concessions made from both sides of the aisle.
Teachers should be willing to:
- try to implement new policies and procedures
- learn new methods of teaching and implement them as necessary
- voice their concerns in a constructive manner
Principals should be willing to:
- take teachers’ advice and make changes to policies as necessary
- side with the teachers in the case of students and parents getting upset over new procedures
- not default to leaning on their authority (“I’m the principal so whatever I say goes!”) and instead listen to what the teachers have to say
Remember, the ultimate goal of both teachers and principals is the same: to give students a quality education.
Steps to Principal/Teacher Conflict Resolution
- Understand both sides of the issue. The first step in resolving any conflict is to get to the root of whatever the problem is. Ensure both sides fully understand the issue and the other side’s perspective on it.
- Talk it out. See if the two parties can discuss their respective problems and concerns to see if there is a viable solution. Being open and honest about a problem is always a better option to ignoring it until it becomes a bigger issue than it otherwise would have.
- Seek advice and support. If one teacher is having a particular issue, it is likely that other teachers in the school are also having that issue. Contact others in your department or field to see if anyone else has a solution to your problem. Conversely, if the principal is unsure what to do, they can ask other principals or superintendents what they recommend.
- Make a task force. If the situation is not getting resolved in a timely manner, put together a group of teachers and administrators to evaluate the best options to solve the problem. Having different perspectives on the matter that can make a cost-benefit analysis or a pros and cons document might help to make the problem — and hopefully the solution — clearer.
- Seek outside help. If the problem cannot be solved by the above means, consider finding a neutral third-party that can objectively look at all of the information and offer a non-biased solution.