Aase Marie and Synove Faldalen
Vigdis R. Faldalen and Lars Thyholdt
With a Preface by Johan Galtung
Illustrations by MelvÃ¦r & Lien Idea Entrepreneurs
Searching for Good Solutions - Learning Solving Conflicts
An Introduction to Conflict Handling and Social Relations at School
© SABONA Core Group, 2011
"He just ruined our snowman!!"
The three first graders are crying over the loss of their newly built snowman. It's a wonderful, sunny day in late February. The snow is fresh and wet and excellent for shaping all kinds of snow sculptures. The schoolyard is filled with joy and children's laughter, with exception from these three unhappy kids. They run to one of the teachers guarding the schoolyard this break, and tell him about the incident. The teacher listens to the story about how an older student, a sixth grader, has kicked over the first graders"™ snowman. Not just once "“ but twice! They tried to build it up again after the first attack, but suddenly he was there again and destroyed their work. The youngsters know this boy and reveal his name to the teacher, who searches him up. The boy has hid behind one of the school buildings, sitting on a bench. The teacher approaches him.
"May I sit next to you? I need to talk to you."
The boy, slightly surprised by not being addressed in a strict manner, answers with an almost unnoticeable gesture, nodding his head. The teacher continues.
"Look, I need to hear your side of a story I've just been told, involving you, three kids from the first grade and a snowman. Do you know what I'm talking about?"
The boy looks down for some seconds, and after being confronted with the accusations against him, he admits the damage he has caused.
"What you have done is unacceptable, but like I said, I am willing to listen to your story. Can you tell me why you did it?", the teacher continues.
The boy is not too eager to tell his version. It is embarrassing. But after a while he is ready to "let go".
"They wouldn't let me play with them. Why is it only the first and second graders who are allowed to borrow shovels for making igloos and snowmen?" The teacher has to admit he's having a point there, and says so to him.
"I understand you feel this is unfair. Still, your behavior in this matter is not acceptable. You know we have ways to handle wishes and requests from the students. The student council takes care of such matters."
The boy agrees, but replies. "I know, but why didn't they let me play with them?" "I don't know. Did you ask them if you may?", the teacher asks. "No, not exactly, but I was there when they started and tried to help them, but they only told me to go away!" "Could it be that they misunderstood your intentions? Maybe they thought you wanted to bully them?" "Why would they think that?"
"Well, I'm sure you can remember being a first grader yourself many years ago. You thought the older students at school could seem rather scary to you, didn't you?"
The boy nods silently. "So, what do you do now?", the teacher continuous. "What do you mean?", the boy asks.
"Like I said, what you did was not acceptable", the teacher goes on. "You need to do something about it."
"I could, of course, help them rebuild the snowman, but I'm sure they won't let me join them now, after what happened", the boy sighs. "If you had been one of them, what would you have wanted a sixth grader to do in order to let him join in after first having ruined your work?", the teacher asks. "I could say I'm sorry", the boy answers uncertainly. "That would be a good start, I think", the teacher replies. "I also think telling them that you wanted to play, but that you didn't quite make it clear to them, could be a good idea. Let's see if we can find them, and talk to them, shall we?"
A little while later, the sixth grader is busy building a new and much bigger and even more beautiful snowman together with three happy first graders.
Comment: Listening to this story, Johan Galtung once said; "There is a snowman called the Oslo process. The Israeli Labor Party and Palestines Al Fatah are allowed to play, Likhud and Hamas are excluded. What is their natural reaction? To try to destroy what the others have built. If we want to make peace, we must include all parties, even those with whom we may disagree!"
Working with children, we need to add that they also must learn to acknowledge other children's right to play alone and to be left alone, if that is their wish.
However, we must encourage them to look for the overwhelming possibilities that dwell in creating things together with others; exploring the field of togetherness, challenge the risk of having clashes of goals, improving the skills of how to make positive outcomes and new realities from such processes.