The New Jersey State Bar Foundation has published an updated version of its Conflict Resolution Guide, a compendium of lessons for educators wishing to create a conflict resolution program in their classroom or school.

The guide is part of the Foundation’s goal of providing resources for schools to create comprehensive plans to improve school climate. It is available to educators who attend one of several conflict resolution trainings hosted by Foundation staff.

“The Foundation’s Conflict Resolution Program is an important part of the work we do to improve the climate in schools throughout the state,” said Lynn Newsome, president of the foundation. “I’m so pleased we are able to release this new, updated guide. Conflict is normal and experienced by everyone, and this guide gives educators—and ultimately, their students—the tools to effectively manage and resolve misunderstandings.”

The guide includes lesson plans for elementary, middle and high school grades. Two of the three guide authors have been involved with the Conflict Resolution Program since its inception over 20 years ago. Both Barbara Nagle and Paula Eisen were part of the committee assembled at the initiative’s start, Eisen as a middle school teacher and Nagle as a college educator.

The guide is organized by lesson, giving teachers flexibility and the ability to adapt their teaching to their students’ level. The guides also have more background and in-depth information on each lesson. In addition, the scenarios presented have been updated to be age-appropriate and realistic for today’s children. “It’s wonderful choices. There’s a lot of choices,” Eisen said.

Both Nagle and Eisen noted that while conflict resolution has long been a strategy for improving school climates, the focus in the last several years had largely shifted to bullying, with high-profile cases in the news and the passage of anti-bullying laws.

The updated guide takes special care to note the difference between bullying and conflict. “Bullying is abuse,” explained Nagle, a former music teacher turned lawyer turned Montclair State University professor and expert in conflict resolution. “Conflict resolution is not a process that is applicable to abuse, either in adults or children.”

Overflowing registration for conflict resolution workshops show that educators remain committed to having conflict resolution as a tool in their classroom management toolbox. One of the goals of the program is to teach students problem-solving skills such as active listening, anger management, recognizing and addressing feelings, decision-making and effective communication.

“We have documentation that it’s totally changed the school climate,” said Eisen, who used the programs extensively during her time as a middle school teacher in the Old Bridge School District.

Nagle agreed. The program is invaluable, she said. “There’s a connection with the law and there’s a connection with education and there’s a connection with life skills.”

Do you know an educator who might be interested in the foundation’s Conflict Resolution program? Have them reach out to Director Elissa Zylbershlag at [email protected]. You can also learn more about the program at www.njsbf.org.