Meet a TCC instructor, Colin Johnson
Conflict resolution is a skill and a practice
As an English teacher in China, then as an ESL (English Second Language) and history teacher to refugees in New Jersey, and later as a teacher with the Peace Corps in Thailand, Colin Johnson repeatedly realized that as much as he loved the “instruction aspect of teaching,” his heart was in “connecting with my students and working through issues and problems they were dealing with,” he said.
In fact, Colin said he’s “always been interested in conflict generally as a hobby.” He considered a vocation in international diplomacy before earning his master’s in conflict resolution at the University of Denver, while also volunteering with The Conflict Center. Today he serves as the campus conflict resolution coordinator at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Colin is a steadfast fan of The Conflict Center and leads the Center’s conflict management classes for youth and adults a few times a year. “One of the things that’s really powerful about these classes is that as you are often going into some really challenging and difficult topics – and maybe anger and frustration or defensiveness has become a piece of who people see themselves as or have adapted to get by – and you’ll see things start to break through. It is a testament to how important conversations and work like this is. We give people a chance to be seen and to deal with trauma that they might otherwise push down.”
In class, Colin emphasizes that he speaks from experience. “My means of dealing with anger at one point were pretty unhealthy. Conflict resolution is a skill and a practice,” he said, adding, “We learn to share when we are kids, but we don’t always see that modeled as we get older, and we can shift into this very competitive, adversarial way of dealing with things.”
For some, a weekend intensive course at The Conflict Center best suits their schedule. “It’s an intense time period with a lot of material, but the material is very well done and builds upon itself,” he noted. “We take time to connect and listen to one another, and it’s a way for some to get this information that’s respectful of their schedule and time.”
Colin thinks the class’ focus on what fuels anger is especially helpful. “We talk about anger as a secondary emotion, an emotion that’s usually rooted in some other emotion,” he explained. “If anger looks like violence, for example, it might be the person is scared, hungry, tired, or facing some kind of trauma. These classes teach us how to sort through that and be able to ask ourselves questions such as ‘Why I am feeling anger?’”
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