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RAISING HEALTHY CHILDREN

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Educators from Carolina Friends School in Durham explore the relationship between health and education.

 

CAROLINA FRIENDS SCHOOL is an independent Quaker school serving students 3-18. Contact the school at:

4809 Friends School Road
Durham, NC 27705
Telephone: ( 919) 383-6602
www.cfsnc.org.

 

Deloise Dudley-Mayfield is a Carolina Friends School teacher in the Lower School, where she has 35 years of experience. She graduated from North Carolina Central University with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in education. She enjoys singing and drama, and can often be heard in the CFS all-staff choir; she is married to Silas, and together they founded RHEMA, a Baptist church in Durham.

An Evolution in Peace Education

By Deloise ("Dee") Dudley-Mayfield

Dee Dudley-Mayfield

Learning to be at peace with differences, with challenges, and with social and global issues is as important for our children now as ever.

Peace education attempts to instill problem-solving skills in young children when they encounter a dispute. This education involves allowing students in a dispute to express points of view and provides ways to find acceptable solutions in nonviolent ways. Each conflict a child faces offers an opportunity to practice the effective problem-solving, communication, listening, and critical and creative thinking skills that are important to promoting their continual social success.

Peace education is lived, modeled, and practiced daily at Carolina Friends School. In the Lower School, where I work, children practice their new-found skills on the playground, in line waiting for water or the use of the bathroom, during group games on the field, or when locating a seat for morning circle or classroom discussion.

Rooted in the practice of civil disobedience during the Civil Rights movement in the late ’50s and forward, early Carolina Friends School staff members were a part of a larger community of Quakers who influenced and guided a way of living that was rooted in the peace testimony of Friends. The whole culture of the school was actively seeking peaceful dialogue in a very non-peaceful political environment. Students were educated on peaceful interaction and dialogue as a part of the whole. It was not a curriculum; it was a lived, day-in and day-out experience.

Conflict Resolution

As the years progressed, the School sought out examples for teaching conflict resolution to young children. Through Friends Council on Education, the staff was introduced to a concept that encouraged children to resolve interpersonal conflicts in a manner that fostered honest conversation, careful listening, reflection, and compromise between the children—without direct teacher influence or guidance.

This model included a flow chart that is displayed in the classrooms. At the start of each year, classroom teachers review this flow chart as a visual example of how conflicts might be addressed.

Over the years, we have worked to modify the flow chart, including adding picture cues for non-readers and simplifying the steps. The chart also helps children notice how they are feeling and build emotional awareness. It reminds children that problems have solutions and provides examples of helpful choices to make while waiting to work toward a solution.

A simple game of tag has many elements of conflict resolution education. For children to keep the game going productively, they have to practice social and emotional skills. They must learn to set, modify, and follow rules, resolve differences, notice and manage emotions when their turns are over, support and include other students, and learn from failure. To gain confidence for these situations, my colleagues and I work preemptively with the children in small groups to solve mock scenarios.

Seeking Help in Resolving Conflicts

Another tactic for conflict resolution we take is to provide children with the ability to seek help in resolving a conflict when they are uncomfortable asking for that help directly. A “conference box” is set up to field requests that a teacher mediate a conversation among their peers. The teacher sets aside time to sit with the students, listen to their concerns, and encourages direct and respectful dialogue about their grievances. After careful listening and support, the teacher will sometimes redirect the children to the conflict resolution chart on display as they work through their conflict and towards a peaceful solution together.

Students learn peace and resolution skills in order to become responsible decision makers, increase self-esteem and to find and develop creative ways to settle conflicts in ways that will reap lifelong benefits.