By Monika Kiel-Hinrichsen, Anke Immenroth, January 2014

When there is a knock on the door on Friday morning, class 7 knows: that’s Tim and Hannes. They say “hi” and ask: “Were you involved in any conflicts this week?” Tobias raises his hand, at first he looks a little uncertainly towards his teacher and then back at Tim und Hannes. They are two of altogether twelve conflict guides at the Rudolf Steiner School for Children In Need Of Special Care in Kiel who offer assistance to the class they are mentoring.

A conflict resolution concept for special-needs schools, based on nonviolent communication, has been developed by the Ipsum Institute in Kiel. As part of their training, the pupils learnt to read body language to help identify emotions and put a name to them. They also began to learn to look at their own behaviour in conflict situations. They quickly developed a understanding of impartiality during their training. “Both sides are always right in some way,” says Paul. A precisely defined progression for the conflict resolution meeting makes it easier for the pupils to take on a mediating and simultaneously structuring role. Depending on the individual capacities of each person involved, emotions and needs are identified or reciprocal understanding between both sides is supported to lead conflicts to a constructive solution. 

A second course is planned for the next school year. Because one thing is clear: through their valuable work these young people can contribute to peaceful coexistence at their school if the adults place their trust in them to do so. Are there fewer conflicts now at the school? Hard to say. But one thing is certain. It is becoming more natural for pupils to raise problems – and to determine for themselves with whom they want to resolve a conflict.

Tobias has meanwhile reached a decision. Yes, he would like to tell Hannes about a quarrel with a boy from the residential group. The teacher gives them a side room while the others start to prepare breakfast. After a time both of them return to the classroom. “Hm, I couldn’t really do everything properly which I’ve learnt because the other boy wasn’t there. But I simply listened to Tobias and told him that he should try saying the things to the other boy which he told me,” Hannes says, thinking back on his assignment. Tobias is satisfied. Later he tells his teacher: “It was good to be able to tell the conflict guide about it. And I can always talk to him about it again.”

About the authors: Anke Immen­roth is an education researcher and trainer in nonviolent communication, Monika Kiel-Hinrichsen is director of the Ipsum Institute Kiel. |