WMU News

Methods for handling school violence addressed in teacher education course work

Aug. 9, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- After a year marked by horrific instances of extreme violence in America's classrooms, those who train new teachers are learning they must increasingly provide ways for future teachers to prepare themselves to handle violent situations.

"Every prospective teacher, like every teacher already in the classroom, is thinking about how he or she would handle themselves if confronted with a situation like the one at Columbine," says Dr. Julie Stoffels, assistant dean of WMU's College of Education and director of teacher education. "Until you've actually been in charge of your own classroom, you don't completely understand the dynamics, but we try to put our students in simulation situations where they can practice and reinforce their skills in problem solving, analysis and resource retrieval for the kinds of situations they might encounter. Those situations might range from a fight on the playground to a parent who enters a classroom and becomes violent."

Stoffels says once students have had real classroom experience, they often come back and tell her they were better able to react well to real-life situations when they could recall practicing something similar in a simulation. Training young teachers for today's schools means making sure they have mediation skills, are familiar with how to identify troubled students and are familiar with the culture of the community they serve.

Says Stoffels, "There's a whole piece on civility in the classroom we teach, and understanding and appreciating local culture is a big part of that."

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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