This past Tuesday we celebrated International Peace Day. We marked it on our calendar in advance, and when the day came, we had a large group lesson on peace. I made a small book with about the meaning of peace to read to the children and to talk about. The pictures and words were to make a very abstract concept, such as peace, more tangible and relative to the children and to school life.
Here is what I wrote in the book:
Peace is solving problems with words.
Peace is taking care of everyone in our community.
Peace is playing together and helping each other in the game.
Peace is wishing well for others.
Peace is letting others have a turn.
Peace is helping others understand.
Peace is waiting your turn.
When we are peaceful, we feel safe and happy.
I illustrated each sentence with a photo from the internet, but ultimately the best thing would be to have pictures of the children themselves illustrating these concepts. We left the book all week in our book corner for the children to look at and read.
This week we also reintroduced the peace flower back into our classroom. This year is more challenging with the peace flower routine because we have a lot of non-English speakers. Because of this as well, we have been practicing a lot more using the peace flower in large group lessons.
Our peace flower is a plastic flower that sits on our tiny "peace shelf". The way I introduce it to the children is during a large group lesson I tell them that it is a material for helping them solve their problems with words. Then I show how to use it by inviting one of the children to stand with me (I pick an old friend who knows what they are supposed to say) and say:
Me: "Henry, I don't like it when you rip my paper."
Henry: "What can I do to make you feel better?"
Me: "Help me fix it and don't do it again."
Henry: "Ok." (carries out the solution)
This is for simple conflicts. But as the weeks progress, we give lessons on how to solve more difficult problems like when two people have done things to each other that they don't like.
At the beginning, the peace flower use requires some adult supervision (especially for the new and younger children) but in time, the children use it independently. I have had some families tell me that their child has asked to have a peace flower at home as well to solve problems with their siblings (or parents).
Of course, there are myriads of complexities when it comes to children's problems and this is just a very simplified template for dealing with all of it. But it is one of the tools we choose to give to the children in our room to help with the day to day difficulties.
Our use of the peace flower use tied in perfectly to our Conscious Discipline session, which was about Assertiveness. Here's the low down about conflict resolution that they gave us:
WHEN A CHILD DOES SOMETHING TO ANOTHER CHILD:
- Go to victim first
- Validate their feelings (You look very angry about that, you look like you are feeling very sad...)
- Ask the child if they liked what the other person did.
- Go with them to the other child. And have them say "I don't like it when you..."
- Help them find a solution: "At school you may not ... because it is not safe (or whatever the reason)... If you want to ... what could you do next time?
The bottom line is that, whether we use a prop or not, our job is not to be the judges or detectives of what happened, but to help children solve their problems in a peaceful manner.
Aside from practicing conflict resolution as part of grace and courtesy in the classroom, teaching children how to use an assertive voice when something happens that they don't like, as well as making pictures of the rules of the classroom and explaining them clearly can help as well.