Peace by PEACE: Teaching Children, Teaching Myself

WRITTEN BY: Cindy Zhang, Fundraising Director, Peace by PEACE

The educational system focuses on academic achievements as bench mark for being successful. However, we all know by now that in order to become a leader and a successful member of any group, fostering interpersonal soft skills is just as – if not more – important.

About a decade ago, when I was in Grade 5, a university student volunteering with Peace by PEACE came into my classroom and told munchkin-version-me that, “Conflict isn’t bad. It’s a normal part of life that happens to everyone. What makes conflict bad, is if you make poor choices after the conflict has occurred and letting it get out of hand.” And that’s been something that’s resonated with me throughout my career at school and work. No doubt, during my first year at UofT, I joined the Peace by PEACE volunteer force at the first opportunity I got.

Here’s the thing, though: just because I am the teacher in the classroom, it doesn’t mean that I can’t teach Peace by PEACE concepts that are aimed at 11 year-olds to myself. Through simple games and activities, concepts like empathy, cooperation, and self-esteem are broken down to its basic elements. And these are the basic building blocks you need to untangle messy conflict situations.

It may seem like a no-brainer that healthy conflict resolution is important, but it’s shocking how often people share with me their disagreements with their group project partners or co-workers leading to lost friendships and burned bridges. If you take a moment and reflect, conflict is at the core of all the pressing social issues. Resolving conflict in our great, big, complicated “adult” world shouldn’t be rocket science. And it’s not. Each year, hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers are connected with over 1,500 children to foster meaningful interpersonal skills. Peace by PEACE aims to plant the idea in the next generation of youths that conflict can be resolved peacefully and in a healthy manner that’s free from violence.

But if boogers and lollipops aren’t your thing, plant this idea in yourself: conflict is not bad, but your behaviour and response to it will be the ultimate determinant on what happens next. Try taking a new perspective and express yourself in a new way.

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