Now that we’ve learned what a student-led classroom is and addressed a few common concerns, it’s time to dive into the heart of the PIRATE acronym.  P stands for Peer Collaboration.  In my classroom, I do my best to provide so many opportunities for peer collaboration.  Although I provide these opportunities, reading this chapter opened my eyes to the many things that I could be doing differently.

One of the many frustrating aspects of peer collaboration is that it seems that my kids always have some sort of conflict.  I’ll take blame for that.  I often find myself jumping into solve their problem, splitting up the group, or handle it in a typical adult fashion. Ummm, this is wrong on so many levels.  In this chapter, Solarz gives a few strategies for dealing with conflict.  These strategies are intended to be taught as situations occur to allow students to learn to manage future conflicts WITHOUT YOU!  🙂

1.  Rock-Paper-Scissors: This strategy is something that many of my students already do from time to time.  This is my husband’s go to strategy and my fifth graders come to me from his fourth grade classroom.  I love that by working collaboratively, I will allow my students to solve conflicts using something that they are already familiar with.
2.  Compromise: This strategy is something that I can’t wait to start teaching my students.  I believe this is such an important life skill to teach in the classroom.  How many times a day do we find ourselves compromising with others?  I believe this strategy allows our students to work together creatively and learn valuable problem solving skills.  Many times, a mesh of two great ideas or strategies will allow us to find even better ways to solve problems and tasks.
3.  Choose Kind: This is by far my favorite strategy.  With this strategy, we teach our students to allow their partner or group to do what they want without conflict.  Sometimes, we need to teach our kids to do things for no other reason than to be kind to others.  I would really love to see my students choose to be kind rather than feel the need to constantly get their way.

Solarz says, “I’m not exaggerating when I say that I rarely hear arguments between by students the second half of the year.”  (Solarz, 59)  This type of environment is what I dream of.  I don’t want you to get the idea that my room is one constant fight, because it isn’t.  For the most part, my students get along and work together well.  If I had to rate my 2014/15 class on a scale of one to ten, I would say they would rank around a 7.  Paul also shared one of his goals for himself that I feel best describes what I am reaching for in my classroom each year.  He says, “One of my main goals each year is to create an environment where my students consider one another to be like siblings.”  I don’t want students who are just classmates.  I want them to be “tighter” than that!  I want them to interact, work together, and overcome obstacles in ways that siblings do.  What a fabulous classroom environment for learning!