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Puddledancer Press
The No-Fault Classroom: Tools to Resolve Conflict & Foster Relationship Intelligence

The No-Fault Classroom: Tools to Resolve Conflict & Foster Relationship Intelligence

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781892005182
Publisher: Puddledancer Press
Publication date: 09/01/2008
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 8.40(w) x 10.80(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Sura Hart and Victoria Kindle Hodson are co-authors of Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids; The Compassionate Classroom; and The No-Fault Classroom—all based on Nonviolent Communication and translated into numerous languages. In addition, Victoria and Sura have developed The No-Fault Zone Game—a communication and conflict resolution tool used in homes and classrooms throughout the world. Sura Hart is an educator, author, and certified trainer with the international Center for Nonviolent Communication and worldwide leader in the incorporation of the proven process of Nonviolent Communication in school communities. She offers Compassionate Classroom and No-Fault Zone workshops and trainings throughout the world—in the United States, Canada, Europe, Central America, Australia, and China. When not traveling, Sura makes her home in Seattle, Washington, where she enjoys spending time with her family and coaching educators and parents in collaborative communication skills and restorative conflict resolution. Victoria Kindle Hodson, teacher, consultant, and internationally recognized author, is a passionate proponent of respectful interactions between adults and young people. For four decades, she has been sharing compassionate practices from the fields of parenting, education, positive psychology, and brain science with thousands of parents, teachers, and students. Victoria lives in Ventura, California, where she is currently training teachers in The No-Fault Zone curriculum, designing professional development programs for personalizing classroom instruction, and working with private clients.

Read an Excerpt

The No-Fault Classroom

Tools to Resolve Conflict & Foster Relationship Intelligence

By Sura Hart

PuddleDancer Press

Copyright © 2008 Sura Hart and Victoria Kindle Hodson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-934336-06-9


Section I

Prepare the Ground & Lay the Foundation

We hope you, and your students, will enjoy planning and constructing your No-Fault Classroom throughout the school year. Your joint explorations and the structure you create together have the potential to support a learning environment that works for everyone. The time you take at the beginning to prepare the ground for the foundation of your structure will be time well spent.

Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by fear of punishment, and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent than the one derived from fear of punishment.

— Mahatma Gandhi

To prepare the ground and lay a firm foundation for your No-Fault Classroom, we strongly encourage you to take time, before starting the modules, to do the following:

[] Examine your current beliefs about conflict.

[] Look at your classroom management style and its underlying assumptions about how you use power.

[] Create your Vision for your classroom.

[] Share your Vision with your students and hear their Visions.

[] Co-create Classroom Group Agreements with your students.

Prepare the Ground for Your No-Fault Classroom

To begin, we invite you to examine some of your present thinking about power, conflict and classroom management to see what assumptions and understandings you are taking into this exploration with your students.

Reflection on Conflict

Please use the guidelines below during some relaxed time to think about what conflict means to you; the causes of conflict and its effects on learning; and your current thoughts about how to prevent, reduce and resolve conflict.

After you reflect on these questions, we will share with you our own responses to the same questions.

Punishment damages goodwill and self-esteem, and shifts our attention from the intrinsic value of an action to external consequences.

— Marshall B. Rosenberg

Teacher Exploration:

Your Understanding of Conflict, Its Causes, Its Effects & What Prevents, Reduces and Resolves It

What is conflict?

___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________

What are the causes of conflict?

___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________

How does conflict affect classroom learning?

___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________

What prevents, reduces and resolves conflict?

___________________________________________ ___________________________________________ ___________________________________________

Our Understanding of Conflict, Its Causes, Its Effects & What Prevents, Reduces and Resolves It

What is conflict?

We begin with Webster's dictionary definition of conflict: "competitive or opposing action resulting from [a perception of] opposing needs, drives or wishes."

The con- in conflict is equivalent to com-, which means together; the root, fligare, means "to strike." In short, conflict is "striking together," as in a fight, battle or war.

Simple situations can be either relatively minor problems to be solved or the start of a fight. Trish hits Alfredo. Yukiko grabs Ryan's pencil and won't give it back. Jenny didn't turn in her homework for the third time this week. What determines, in each of these cases, whether an argument or fight will ensue?

From a behavioral point of view, if any of the players in the above interchanges uses criticism, blame or name-calling, the scales tip in favor of conflict. Each exchange of blaming actions and words contributes to flaring tempers and moves Trish and Alfredo, Yukiko and Ryan, and Jenny and the teacher closer to the battle zone.

In conflict situations, name-calling, hitting, criticism and blame are often all that teachers and administrators see and hear before assigning blame themselves and handing out punishments. Conflict, however, is a more complex dynamic with much deeper roots. Those who are willing to ask why students call each other names, hit each other, and criticize and blame one another can discover the true nature of conflict and be primed to find new, creative ways to get to the roots of it and work with it rather than manage or suppress it.

What are the causes of conflict?

Again, taking off from Webster's definition: conflict is "competitive or opposing action resulting from [the perception of] opposing needs, drives or wishes."

If we're in a situation where we think that our needs, drives or wishes won't be considered or can't be met, we perceive danger and feel afraid. This is an automatic response. We're not in control of it. Our whole physiology shifts to protecting ourselves. Stress hormones are released that shut down the reasoning zones of the brain. Simplified, binary, either/or, black-and-white thinking takes over: I'm right, you're wrong. You're to blame. In short order, "you" become "the enemy."

Fight, Flight, Freeze

When we are in danger, perceived or actual, we respond automatically with a fight, flight or freeze reaction: we lash out (hit, scream, blame others) OR try to escape the situation (lie, blame ourselves, run away), OR freeze in our tracks (cower, cry, shake). Any of these reactions is likely to set off a chain reaction of judgmental, punitive responses from those around us, who are often equally stressed. The situation escalates and the understanding and reasoned response that can lead to resolution is deferred.

When conflict is dealt with in our habitual ways — by finding out who is to blame and punishing that person — fear and resentment are left smoldering, and conflict will soon flare up again.

As we see it, the root of this conflict, and all conflict, is the thought or perception that my needs aren't going to get met in this situation. The fear generated by this thought triggers a protective, defensive reaction that sets the conflict in motion and keeps it fueled.

How does conflict affect classroom learning?

Emotional safety is a fundamental requirement for learning. Under the emotional stress of conflict, the learning zones of the brain shut down. It is not possible, in the midst of a stressful, fearful thought, to focus one's attention on tasks that require reason, concentration, creativity or timetables for completion.

What prevents, reduces and resolves conflict?

To prevent, reduce and resolve conflict, we need to create learning communities where all students and teachers are assured that their needs matter and can be met. If we are certain that our needs do matter and that there will be an attempt to understand and address them, we are not likely to perceive danger and go into a fear response. We will have no reason to take a protective or defensive stance.

As well as assurance that everyone's needs matter equally, each member of the learning community will need a thorough knowledge of their inner landscape — thoughts, feelings, needs and choices — so they can sort through complex emotions, recognize their needs, express them clearly, strategize ways to meet them and help others do the same. In learning communities like this, problem solving is more common than conflict. And conflict can be addressed and worked through with everyone's needs in mind.

We see things the way our minds have instructed our eyes to see.

— Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank and 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner

Reflection on Classroom Management Style

Part of preparing the ground to construct a No-Fault Classroom is taking stock of your current reality — your policies and practices for conducting your classroom. We offer here some of the classroom management styles we have seen used by teachers.

The authoritarian management style values rules, respect for authority and obedience. The behaviors of those who don't comply with these expectations are suppressed with threats, incentives, rewards, consequences and punishment. Administrators and teachers determine positive and negative re-enforcers. Commands and demands are common. Students learn to obey because they fear what will happen if they don't. Students' needs are not recognized. Results: Lack of respect, resistance, withdrawal, rebelliousness and conflict are daily occurrences in these classrooms.

The permissive management style, which often appears in reaction to authoritarian structures and policies, prioritizes meeting student needs for free expression and choice. Teachers often understate their own needs when using a permissive management style. Eventually, when students are "out of control" and teachers are exhausted, the pendulum swings back and teachers resort to an authoritarian management style to restore order and balance. Results: This style creates an oscillating management structure that often results in confusion (for both teacher and students), resistance, lack of respect and dependency.

Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.

— Albert Einstein

The authoritative management style provides students some choices within a clear and firm structure. Teachers guide and facilitate learning. Teachers show students the path to achieve outcomes, and students learn that they have control over some outcomes. The authoritative style values consistency, a high level of performance, firm adult expectations, consistent and firm adult-created policies and consequences, and opportunities offered to students to learn independence. Administrators and teachers remain in primary control of expectations and rules, incentives and consequences. Some needs of students are addressed and some are not. Results: A softer tone is achieved than with the authoritative style, though behavior is still managed through external "incentives" and "consequences." Students who meet expected performance standards thrive.

A relationship-based management style values the needs of students and teachers in the classroom equally and tries to find ways to understand and address them. Mutual decision making and mutual objective setting are learned and practiced. A relationship-based process for dialogue is taught and used to engage co-operation. Students want to co-operate because they see that their contributions are valued. Force is employed only to protect what members of the learning community value. There is no judgment, blame or punishment for those whose behavior is not supporting the agreed-upon values; instead, there is an intent to identify and address the needs behind the behavior. Results: Mutual respect, caring, genuine co-operation and the ability to focus on learning tasks.

Classroom Management Styles:


The No-Fault Classroom curriculum guides teachers in gradually developing a more and more relationship-based management style in their classroom.

Two Ways to Use Power in the Classroom

Underlying each of the management styles is one of two ways to use power: power over others, most fully represented by the authoritarian management style; and power with others, most fully represented by the relationship-based management style.

Teachers' moment-by-moment interactions with students are based on either exercising power over them or power with them. Check the following power over expressions and power with expressions that you most frequently hear yourself using.

Power Over Expressions

[] You must do this right now! If you don't ...

[] Don't make me ask you again!

[] You are expected to do what you're told.

[] I know that this isn't interesting or important to you, but you have to ____.

[] How many times must I repeat myself?

[] If you talk disrespectfully to me you will be sent to the office.

Do you find yourself:

[] lecturing?

[] advising?

[] arguing?

[] analyzing?

Do you hear yourself:

[] making commands?

[] making demands?

Do you hear yourself using these or similar phrases:

[] you have to

[] you must

[] you ought to

[] you should

There are three ways of dealing with difference: domination, compromise and integration. By domination only one side gets what it wants; by compromise neither side gets what it wants; by integration we find a way by which both sides may get what they wish.

— Mary Parker Follett

[] Power With Expressions

[] I'd like to find a solution that works for everyone.

[] I'm happy when we work together.

[] I'd like to hear how this sounds to you.

[] I wonder what you need right now.

[] Would you be willing to ____?

[] Please help me understand what you have in mind.

[] I wonder what comes up for you hearing what I said?

I'd like to tell you what isn't working for me about this situation.

[] I'd like to tell you what is working for me about this situation.

In conflict situations, as in all other situations, the primary message of a teacher with a relationship-based style of management is this:

[] I want us to come up with strategies and solutions that work for all of us.

[] I'm willing to explore with you ways to do that.

Teachers determined to exercise power with their students are not afraid to listen to what students have to say. In fact, they welcome it. Listening doesn't mean agreeing or disagreeing. Listening is often the beginning of a dialogue that has the potential to get to the real root of problems and conflicts.

Whether you are building on a power over or a power with foundation, your students will be learning how to address problems and conflicts from everything you say and do. They will pick up your tactics and use them with their classmates and friends. They will take your tactics home with them as a foundation for interactions with siblings, and they will use them to build a foundation for future relationships.

Power With = True Co-operation

We hear how much teachers want co-operation in their classrooms; in many cases, how desperate they are for it. However, teachers whose classrooms are based on power over practices often don't perceive co-operation to be the two-way working relationship with students that the word implies. They see it as a one-way street in which students do what teachers want them to do. When students don't do what is expected, they are called "uncooperative," written up for bad behavior, sent to the principal's office to suffer consequences — or given rewards or incentives to do things the teacher's way.

The co- in co-operation means "together," and the oper- means "work," so co-operation means "working together." True co-operation is not something that can be mandated. Where there is no togetherness in the operation of a classroom — in mutual decision making, objective setting and problem solving — the following natural consequences can be expected: fear, resistance, arguments, hurt feelings, battles of will and other forms of conflict in addition to a reliance on punishment and rewards.

A fundamental law of human relations is this: Teachers who leave the co- out of classroom operations are destined to reap the consequences of the omission. No co- in classroom operations predicts a cycle in which conflict is followed by punishments and incentives to resolve the conflict, which leads to further conflict and further punishments and incentives, and on and on. If you aren't willing to work with your students, they aren't going to be willing to work with you.

Conversely, when you are willing to work with your students, you will find they enjoy working with you. According to leading scientists, co-operation is in our genes, since it is necessary for ongoing survival of a species. Humans have a feel-good response when co-operating with one another toward a shared objective or vision. And so, we do not have to teach young people co-operation — only inspire it by co-operating with them and giving them many opportunities to enjoy co-operative endeavors that have meaning and purpose for them. This is a definition we enjoy for co-operation: "A way to engage power with others so everyone has power to thrive."

What Is Your Vision for Your Classroom?

It is extremely helpful to have a Vision of your own to further strengthen the foundation you are establishing for your No-Fault Classroom. When you have a well-defined Vision, you are able to sense and articulate your purpose for teaching. With that clarity, you will be able to choose the methods and materials that will serve your Vision best.

Some things to consider: Do you want a classroom where students always get their work done your way and on your time schedule? Do you want a classroom where children follow rules — your rules? Think it through. If you say this is the kind of classroom you want, realize that you are likely choosing to spend a lot of your time looking for misbehavior, writing it up, reporting it to parents, sending students out of the room for it, collecting names of the unruly on the board, putting check marks next to them for each additional unacceptable behavior, and trying to determine appropriate rewards and punishments. Another major portion of your time will be spent trying to manage the students who complain, nag, bully, tattle and resist your efforts.


Excerpted from The No-Fault Classroom by Sura Hart. Copyright © 2008 Sura Hart and Victoria Kindle Hodson. Excerpted by permission of PuddleDancer Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Section I: Prepare the Ground & Lay the Foundation,
Section II: Construction Materials,
Section III: Construct Your No-Fault Classroom,
How You Can Use the NVC Process,
Some Basic Feelings and Needs We All Have,
About PuddleDancer Press,
About CNVC and NVC,
Trade Books from PuddleDancer Press,
Trade Booklets from PuddleDancer Press,
About the Authors,

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