ICM hosts Nashville public school teachers at conflict resolution training

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Memorial Foundation grant brings conflict resolution training to J.T. Moore, Cameron and Overton school teachers

National conflict resolution program brought to Tennessee for the first time by ICM

  • Click here to see the Channel 4 report on the CRETE training.
Tricia Jones, Temple University

Lipscomb University’s Institute for Conflict Management (ICM) hosted around 50 educators from Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, Nashville nonprofits and organizations in surrounding regions for a nationally recognized conflict resolution training for school teachers May 29 through June 1.

Tricia Jones, the national director of CRETE (Conflict Resolution Education for Teacher Education) from Temple University in Pennsylvania, and others conducted four days of training for the teachers, including a full day focused on anti-bullying strategies on May 31.

Various Nashville public schools, such as J.T. Moore and Cameron middle schools; local nonprofits such as the Martha O’Bryan Center; and Lipscomb’s College of Education sent teachers and leaders in varying positions to learn about conflict management techniques, classroom management strategies, anti-bullying methods and community-building.

“Participants will come away with more than 600 pages of information on websites, DVDs and CD-ROMS they can continue to use throughout the school year,” said Phyllis Hildreth, academic director of ICM.

CRETE is a collaboration of universities, agencies and conflict resolution education organizations dedicated to infusing conflict resolution education and social and emotional learning into teacher education. 

Overton High School should make good use of the information as officials there plan to establish a program providing students with an alternative to disciplinary action if they agree to work out their problems through peer mediation.

“Bullying is bigger than ever because it can be done from any cell phone or electronic device connected to the Internet. Feelings get hurt and the issue takes on a snowball effect and grows into this seemingly insurmountable problem,” said Jennifer Sallee, head of the English department and a Freshman Academy Team at Overton High School. “Some simple misunderstanding is blown out of proportion because the students are not equipped to deal with what they are thinking and feeling. We hope that through peer-mediation we can help students work through the social-emotional issues they are experiencing so they can learn.”

Sallee came up with the idea for a peer mediation program while taking a conflict management course required for one of her two education master’s degrees from Lipscomb.

Overton has been awarded a grant from the Tennessee Department of Education to address the school climate. The CRETE training is the first step in the process with seven teachers, coaches and sponsors attending this week.

During the four-day CRETE training, teachers are learning how to recognize the effects of bullying and to be more aware of when and where it can happen, Sallee said. Because bullying often takes place off-campus, out of the teacher’s sight, or increasingly online, sometimes teachers aren’t even aware of the effect it is having on the students, she said.

The CRETE program, and Overton’s future efforts, will focus on helping students develop the skill sets they need to deal with bullying or to work out conflicts before they have a disabling effect, Sallee said.

Cameron Middle School, which is currently working with Lipscomb’s College of Education while undergoing a multi-year transition to become a charter school, also sent participants to the training, along with DuPont Tyler and Madison middle schools,

ICM has already provided conflict resolution training for Maplewood High School and Apollo Middle School students with great success. The CRETE training was the perfect way to continue ICM’s strong relationship with its community partner, the Nashville public schools, said Hildreth, who is working to be a certified CRETE trainer, allowing ICM to become the state’s first provider of the program now offered in 11 other states across the nation.

“We are being very proactive. We aren’t waiting for some tragedy to happen and then say, ‘Oh, we have to do something.’ We at ICM want to be a lightning rod for leveraging other national resources to provide the best practices to our community here,” she said.

Teaching teachers how to deal with conflict in the schools is more important today than ever before, because the nation’s is experiencing an epidemic of teachers leaving the classroom after three to five years due to conflicts on the job, Jones said. In addition, the nation is also battling high bullying rates, especially cyberbullying, she said.

The CRETE training shows teachers how to set up their classrooms so all students feel equally included and teaches many positive discipline techniques, helping students recognize conflict and discipline as an opportunity to learn, Jones said.

Provision of the Nashville CRETE training to the Overton, Cameron and J.T. Moore teachers is funded by a 2011 $50,000 grant from the Memorial Foundation, via the Nashville Public Education Foundation, to provide conflict resolution training to teachers and students in the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools.

The national CRETE program is or has been supported by funds to Temple University from the U.S. Department of Education FIPSE program, the JAMS Foundation, the George Gund Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; and by the generous in-kind support of CRETE partner organizations. CRETE is the intellectual property of Temple University.