Robert Smeaton
Conflict resolution and de-escalation in an intercultural context: a reflection on practice.

Misunderstanding is an inevitable and even essential aspect of what occurs in the language classroom, and indeed in the wider context of the language school. Do you ever wonder how culture plays a role in misunderstanding or conflict between your students, or between teachers and students? How do we sensitively communicate with staff, and our international students when misunderstandings occur? How do we, as they say, ‘move things forward’? How does our ‘intercultural sensitivity’ assist this process? How do we provide ongoing support to our students, particularly when life is not going well? How can we convey this in a sensitive manner?

These are the questions I want to explore with teachers or other staff who regularly perform a counselling role. This session will cover a range of common difficulties and unpack the cultural elements that contribute to them and provide specific strategies to de-escalate potentially serious problems. It will ask the participants to reflect on their own best practise, and share these in discussions. I would like to finish with my own checklist of ‘soft skills’ that can have a powerful effect.

Robert Smeaton is currently Senior Teacher-Student Liaison at Hawthorn-Melbourne – a unique position in an ELICOS college. In twenty years of international and local experience in the TESOL field, he has held a range of posts including teacher, Independent Learning Centre Co-ordinator and Director of Studies. Robert enjoys his current role as Senior Teacher – Student Liaison because it encompasses problem solving, conflict resolution and building relationships with key internal and external stakeholders. In an international education context, misunderstandings can and do arise, and it is in this significant and sensitive aspect of the life of the school community, that Robert mentors and advises students, teachers and other colleagues.