Welcome to the March issue of The School Mediator.
This month's issue features one educator's
challenging experiences teaching young people to
be competent mediators. As always, your response is
Wishing you the best, wherever you are,
Founder and Director
School Mediation Associates
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|Student Mediators are Born, Not Made
|The following piece was sent to The School Mediator
by an excellent peer mediation coordinator who I happen
to know. He has been active in the field for close to a
decade and has personally trained hundreds of students
to mediate. He is currently an adjustment counselor and
mediation coordinator in an urban high school in the
United States. His school has large, first-generation
Asian and Hispanic populations and a difficult gang
problem. He has chosen to remain anonymous. These
are his words:
It is a frustrating reality for me that most kids we train
to be mediators aren't very good at it. I am writing to
clarify my feelings and hopefully to receive feedback from
others wrestling with this issue.
During our initial training, students generally do a good
job and I always feel hopeful. But once they begin
working with real parties, students seem to forget what
As an example, the other day students mediated a
1. Completely forgot to summarize what either party had
2. Hardly asked any questions;
3. Asked parties what they wanted from mediation at an
inappropriate time, right after the second party finished
telling their story.
Each of these deficits is linked to an integral part of our
mediation model, a model that I have reviewed with
students countless times.
When I gave the mediators feedback after the session,
they were unresponsive and claimed they had done what
I clearly saw that they had not. It took all my willpower
not to say to them, "What in the world was that? You
call that mediation!" But, of course, I didn't.
One of these particular mediators is a senior and has
been trained by us twice!
Why do the mediators seem to lose many of the skills
they exhibit during training? I give feedback after
students mediate, I hold biweekly meetings, I even
organize advanced trainings, but it seems like my
mediators are only committed during the initial training.
Perhaps my biggest concern regarding students' abilities,
however, is that I often find that underlying issues
don't reveal themselves when young people are the
Yesterday, for instance, there was a mediation between
a boy, Luis, and a girl, Maria. The case was referred by
an administrator, and because of extenuating
circumstances, I had to mediate this dispute myself.
I was informed that the fight occurred because Luis was
sent to sit next to Maria. Maria did not want him to sit
next to her and they exchanged words. Their dispute
escalated until Maria actually hit Luis. She was
suspended for five days. Luis did not hit Maria
(and in fact he was teased by others for refraining from
During the mediation, both parties were clearly very
uncomfortable and they were giggling in a nervous
manner. Maria was upset because she thought Luis had
called her a "ho" earlier in the day.
I asked about their prior relationship and neither party
wanted to speak. After explaining how their past may be
exacerbating their present problems, and assuring them
everything was confidential and that I was not going to
judge them, Luis and Maria finally opened up. It became
clear that they had attended a party together and had
had a sexual "one night stand."
Maria and Luis were able to talk this out and come to
some understanding. In the end, neither party was
100% satisfied, but they were certainly farther along the
healing process than if they had not discussed their
I am quite confident that this information would not
have come out had the mediators been students.
Most of my student mediators would have accepted the
parties' reluctance to speak about the past, and they
would have missed the clues--clues which were relatively
obvious to my experienced sensibilities--that there was
more to the situation than met they eye.
I must add that we do usually gain a couple of wonderful
student mediators after each training. But I become
more convinced each year that mediators are born, not
If someone has a natural talent for listening and
questioning, the training codifies the talent for them.
But I believe if they're not already a "natural," the
training doesn't stick.
I would really appreciate reading others'
reactions and ideas. Thank you.
|Mediation and Bullying
|We received many responses to last month's article
cautioning educators not to mediate conflicts involving
bullying. Below are just a few. (These opinions do not
necessarily reflect the views of School Mediation
I couldn't disagree more. I feel that when cases of
bullying are mediated by competent mediators, especially
students, the person doing the bullying has the
opportunity to understand the impact of their behavior
and the victim is empowered to gain some control over
As the director of middle and high school mediation
programs in New York City, I believe the incidence of
bullying is far more than 3 students per classroom. If we
catch bullying behavior before it rages out of control, we
can avoid many of the school shooting situations.
Remember, most bullies are trying to control others
because they are controlled by someone else.
Students need to feel safe in reporting bullying and
adults need to respond appropriately. This is
accomplished as part of a school-wide effort. No,
tolerance doesn't work, but education and mediation do!
New York City, New York, USA
I enjoyed your article on Bullying. I will forward it to all
coordinators. I am just now making Bully Proof training
available to all our schools here in Oakland County,
Michigan. We see this as a perfect fit for the kind of
youth training we do here.
Youth Training Director
Oakland County, Michigan, USA
It is time we expand the mediation model in schools
beyond peer mediation. I believe this is rich ground for
collaboration between schools and community mediation
programs - to support the teachers, staff and students.
I believe that for a bullying situation, an adult mediator is
more appropriate - and the mediation needs to include
the bullying student's parent! A peer mediator is not
By limiting "mediation" to only "peer mediation" - we
further the perception among middle school and high
school students that "mediation is for little kids." I
welcome anyone's comments or suggestions about this,
please contact me!
Evelyn L. Ang, Director
Northwest Milwaukee Mediation Program
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Interesting article on bullying in schools. I agree that
like any serious
imbalance of power, bullies and their victims are not good
I was, however, struck by the statement in your article
that most victims do not report bullying to adults. It is
possible that a bullying situation might become apparent
in a peer mediation where the victim had hesitated to
report the full story to the screening adult. We need to
train peer mediators to recognize these situations and
assess the viability of mediation. To some extent it is a
judgment call on the part of the peer mediators to
determine whether a bullying situation exists or a milder
form of harassment.
I believe it is important to educate peer mediators and
prepare them to uncover and deal with bullying
situations. Let's not just ignore bullying when training
peer mediators because we acknowledge that it is not
appropriate for young people to deal with. Rather we
need to present bullying situations in our training and
help youth identify and deal appropriately with them.
Bellevue, Washington, USA
If you contact someone directly with information that
might be of interest to The School Mediator
readers, send it along to us too!
|For almost twenty years, School Mediation Associates
has been devoted to the application and promotion of
mediation in schools. SMA's mission is to transform
schools into safer, more caring, and more effective
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