Education Level: Teacher training, primary school
Approach: Non-violent Communication
Target Group: Teachers, parents, school leaders
Brief description of the practice
The organization Skolande, led by Marianne Göthlin, offers training, tools and pedagogical material for teachers and schools on how to strengthen communication, and conflict resolution skills. The intention is to create life-enriching learning communities that cultivate mutual respect, cooperation, compassionate interactions and engaged learning, and provide Non-violent Communication (NVC) training as a powerful tool.
Objectives of the practice
- To support teachers and schools to introduce, practice and integrate NVC values of care and cooperation in their educational practice as a way of living peacefully together and with practical skills to handle conflicts, thus improving both well-being and learning.
- To develop teachers and pupils natural ability to stay connected to the feelings and needs arising in themselves and in others, so that, from this empathic connection, they can find solutions that lead to everyone’s needs being met, even in conflict situations.
The vision of NVC consists of a world where everybody’s needs matter and conflicts are resolved peacefully. The purpose of living NVC in everyday life is to strengthen the ability to reach a deeper and mutual understanding of needs, which fosters respectful dialogue and co-operation.
By using a communication process where qualities of honesty and empathy are strengthened, trust is built in ways that can lead to mutual growth and development. NVC provides a framework and set of skills to address a wide range of concerns, from the closest relationships to global political conflicts. NVC can help prevent conflicts as well as peacefully resolve them.
NVC assumes that people are all compassionate by nature and that violent strategies – whether verbal or physical – are learned behaviors, taught and supported by the prevailing culture. NVC also assumes that everybody shares the same basic human needs, and that each of our actions is a strategy to meet one or more of these needs. Violence is a tragic expression of unmet needs. NVC believes that each human being has remarkable inner resources that can be used by means of empathy.
By practicing NVC, people can learn and clarify what they are observing, their personal feelings, the values they want to live by, and their expectations, both individual and in relation to others. A language of blame, judgment or domination will no longer be needed. People experience the need to contribute to one another's well-being.
The NVC process is relevant to all stages of conflict. Using NVC techniques in everyday life, thinking and communication can be a preventive measure in itself. Whenever a conflict arises, the NVC process provides the support that is needed to act in accordance with people's individual values. If verbal or physical violence has been reached during the conflict, the process can be used to handle the reactions of the people involved.
In this good practice, the main steps to achieve the expected results and impacts are:
- Meeting with school actors (teachers, leadership teams, parents) who request NVC training, and clarify the goals and conditions for an NVC project.
- An NVC presentation (minimum 2 hours, up to one day) for all those wishing to be included in the project. This is to make sure that everyone has the information needed to motivate active participation, or clarify who will participate in the project. Often all school staff participate in part one, and then part two and three can be a matter of choice. Or the project starts with one committed group (part of the staff) and develops from there.
- Drawing up the project plan: the NVC trainer and the school team/group agree about content, timing, goals, documentation, budget, evaluation, etc.
- Then follows a process that includes NVC training and implementation; repeated meetings are preferable, spread over 1-3 years (sometimes shorter projects are implemented, with the awareness that the implementation might not be as strong and sustainable with a short process).
Part 1 – Content: NVC foundation training, key communication competences and conflict resolution skills. Focus on practical application.
Training varies from 4 to 12 meetings, and 3 hours to full days (depending on the goal, group size and other conditions such as timing, finances, etc).
Part 2 – Content: Deepened NVC training. Adding the schools/groups’ choice of focus. Training highly relevant and adapted to their needs and daily work, with much of the time devoted to communicative practice. Training varies from 4-6 meetings, 3 hours to full days.
Part 3 – Content: Deepened NVC training, including sharing NVC skills with others. Setting-up of a practice/pilot group of motivated key people led by a trainer. 3-5 meetings.
All projects include written and practical material to strengthen understanding and implementation. Sometimes a “documentary” workbook is produced from the work in the project, which can serve for dissemination to other schools or groups.
Challenges and opportunities posed by the context
Some projects have covered entire schools and lasted for a long time, from one year up to 12 years, with regular training courses. These projects have had different approaches and goals; for example, to increase the ability to deal with difficult conversations, to prevent and deal with conflict, to strengthen communicative leadership in the classroom, and to integrate democratic values. Certain conditions have proven to be of advantage when introducing NVC in a school:
- Mutual agreement and firm establishment of the project and its goals with all involved.
- Clear and precise conditions for implementation of the project so that everyone is aware of what is required of them.
- Regular courses with practical and theoretical exercises to be completed between the courses in order to support the process.
- Participation also from leadership teams and administrators.
The challenges are: the generally heavy workload for teachers, and finding the time, motivation and resources to focus attention on conflict management as a part of education.
Results and impacts
Here are some results from five projects in Stockholm, Sweden: one pre-school, three municipal schools and one Waldorf school. Altogether, 137 teachers have taken part in these projects and evaluations. The intention was to adapt the projects to each school’s specific conditions, such as limited time (the projects lasted from 6 to 12 months) and limited financial resources, and to make the content as practical as possible for the teachers’ everyday work.
Results revealed in the evaluation (shown as an average across the five projects) included:
- 90% of the participants felt they had increased understanding of factors facilitating communication/co-operation.
- Increased understanding of factors that prevent communication/co-operation (87%).
- Greater feeling of security in dealing with conflicts (80%).
- Increased understanding of communication that facilitates learning (78%).
- Greater feeling of security in difficult/challenging conversations (71%).
- Increased ability to achieve constructive co-operation (67%).
There is consistent feedback that NVC strengthens self-awareness and influences all relationships. Starting from the teacher-student relationship, this will inevitably spread to others – teacher to teacher and student to parent, etc. When students experience this NVC approach from teachers, they get used to handling differences and conflicts with respect and care, which is a skill for life. Students report that they are taken seriously and helped to understand themselves, other people and conflict situations. From this they gain self-knowledge and a sense of security. This is a foundation for successful conflict management.
Sometimes students have grown beyond their families in conflict resolution skills, which is not always easy. Parents can be both inspired and annoyed by that dynamic. Often projects start with teachers, and later on parents seek to know more as they see big changes in their children´s communication and self-esteem.
- NVC is a very helpful tool to learn how to identify emotions, needs and facts, and differentiate them from misinterpretation and judgments, all of them key concepts to transform conflicts in a non-violent way.
- It is a powerful resource to develop empathy and assertiveness.
- This methodology, based on communication skills, seems accessible to anyone – considering everybody uses communication on a daily basis, and is likely motivated to improve it – but at the same time it allows deep connection with other people’s needs, with one’s own humanity and the humanity of others – which is a much deeper outcome that people might not be aware of, or ready for, before starting the course.
- The desire to reach actors beyond teachers and pupils, which might include not only all the school staff but also parents, increases the reach of the results.
Betina Jamsek, teacher in Prevalje, Slovenia
“Due to the NVC idea my work as a teacher as well as my daily life have got incredible new dimensions. I consider the aspects and strategies I have learned so far the greatest gift in my life. We are all humans with individual stories, backgrounds and needs, and it simply feels amazing to have the knowledge to contribute to the well-being of pupils and co-workers. Instead of judging, blaming and self-pitying I have learned how to listen and open my heart to people around me … and all of a sudden it seems so easy to be understood. By support of NVC I feel to finally have the right to be a compassionate teacher with my own needs as well. I have experienced that a safe, respectful and warm classroom atmosphere is the solution to all challenging situations. Thank you, dear NVC friends, thank you!”
Giacomo Poleschi, parent and NVC practitioner, Lido di Camaiore, Italy
“When a conflict arise with my daughter, NVC helps me in connecting with myself and being able to distinguish the needs I'm trying to meet and then choose between many different ways I can take care of them. When a conflict arise between my daughter and other children, NVC helps me in acting in a way that can bring connection with the children, instead of putting my energy in deciding who's right or wrong, punishment, rewards, minimize, etc. When connection arises, often the solution will come from the children involved."
“It helps me in remembering that when there is a conflict with my child, the powerful thing I can do is to try to offer empathy and my presence to her to establish connection between us. After that I can choose to express what is important for me in that situation and then explore together where we can go from there. In doing this, I also know I'm showing to my daughter a way of acting that I think can help to bring peace to the world.”
Boy aged 15, student in a school inspired by NVC, Stockholm, Sweden
“This school is different from others because of the atmosphere here. In the classroom for example, you can say something without being afraid that someone will make fun of you because you sound stupid, and that´s not what I´m used to. I was very quiet in my last class and I still am, but that´s just because I learned to be quiet. No-one wants people to call you names and stuff like that just because you open your mouth. Here they encourage you to talk, which is great. The teachers here seem very dedicated to their work compared to my last school, and that makes it funnier and easier to learn.
“I am pretty sure that bullying doesn´t exist in this school, not anything that I know of anyway. Perhaps because of the atmosphere here, if someone actually did it, other students would stop it. There´s a feeling of safety here. I don´t know if they do anything here to prevent bullying but I don´t feel that that´s needed. [Bullying] just doesn´t exist here.”
Marianne Göthlin: firstname.lastname@example.org