By Paradise Canyon Elementary School Principal, Dr. Debra Cradduck
It seems to me that people of all ages run into issues and conflicts no matter what life stage they are entering. Whether you are a working professional with multiple years of experience in your field, a mother, a father, a high school student, or a kindergartner, one thing is for certain: Conflict is unavoidable. How an individual deals with conflict plays a crucial role in the development of his or her character. It is a lifelong skill that carries into adulthood. At PCY, we strive to teach students to become positive role models in their classrooms in hopes that they become members of society who make meaningful contributions in their communities. It all starts with building essential character traits in their early years.
Kelso’s Choices is a conflict management skills program that has been implemented for the past few years at Paradise Canyon. It is geared towards primary students in kindergarten to second grade, and it teaches our little ones to become peacemakers and problem solvers. Although students in this age group are quite young, they can be taught to take ownership of their feelings and use their problem solving skills to assess what type of problem they are faced with. This program teaches students to ask the question, “Is this a big problem or a small problem?” Big problems, as described by the program, are problems that require the help of an adult. Anything scary and dangerous that requires an adult’s immediate attention is not a problem that should be solved by by students. Small problems, on the other hand, are conflicts that can be resolved between students by trying a variety of options shared in this program.
Kelso’s Wheel of Choices offers students nine different options they can try when they are faced with conflict. Students are encouraged to: talk it out, share and take turns, ignore it, walk away, tell the person to stop, apologize, make a deal, wait and cool off, or go to another game. After trying two of the nine choices, if the problem persists, the students should talk to an adult that they trust. This method of conflict resolution gets students to think about the difference between big problems and small problems. It is a way of encouraging students to make important decisions, as they recognize that there are many issues that don’t necessarily require the help of an adult.
In an interview with second grade teacher, Mrs. Holly Russell, she shared the benefits of the program and the success she has seen in her classroom throughout the years. “I like it because students are more empowered to solve things on their own, and they understand that there are problems that they don’t need to come to you about.” Kelso’s Choices is introduced to the students at the beginning of the year, either by the classroom teacher or assistant principal, Ms. Carrie Hetzel, who teaches the students how to apply the choices using scenario cards, videos, and books. Mrs. Russell adds, “It’s a great resource because the aides on the playground also learned about the program at the beginning of the year. When there is continuity between what happens on the playground and in the classroom, it always helps to reinforce the important concepts that the students have learned.” It has been an invaluable tool for teachers and students in the classroom, but also on the playground.
Students are never too young to be taught to make important decisions that can positively impact their current situations. By providing our children with the tools necessary to solve their problems independently, we equip them with the ability to handle tougher situations that may arise in their future. As peacemaker, Nelson Mandela, once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” The way we educate our students now will positively impact their futures in the years to come.