Welcome back to school, and to the September issue of The School Mediator.
This issue suggests that, for the health
of the field, we must outline and disseminate the
characteristics of peak performing peer
mediation programs. Your response is invited.
Last year, our first year of publication, we grew from 200 to 1300
worldwide subscribers. What a thrill to serve such a vital and
Wishing you the best, wherever you are,
Founder and Director
School Mediation Associates
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Let's Raise the Bar
On many fall and winter mornings, I am up before the
sun, traveling to work with students and educators in
some distant school. The music that for years has been
my companion on these dawn drives is Aaron Copeland's
Though I do not generally listen to classical music, I
can't get enough of this romantic, deceptively intricate
piece of orchestral music. I've found it to be a wonderful
way to gently and in the end triumphantly begin the day.
Recently I stumbled upon two teenage musicians, a
trumpeter and a violinist, rehearsing none other than my
beloved "Appalachian Spring." Though it was a nice
surprise, I was struck by how much less their parts were
than the whole.
I could say the same for most school-based
peer mediation programs. They are interesting, and
sometimes useful, but they don't come close to living up
to the potential of the peer mediation concept as I know
This is troubling enough for someone who has spent most
of his life helping schools implement peer mediation
What concerns me more, however, is how often
educators confuse their partial efforts with the real
They claim to hear the orchestra, but my experienced
ears recognize just two musicians practicing.
Perhaps they have conducted a training, but it has not
adequately prepared students to mediate conflicts. Or
their peer mediators are ready to serve, but they don't
have the time or interest to devote to coordinating their
efforts. Or both adult coordinator and student mediators
work under the shadow of administrators who neither
understand nor support their efforts. The list could go
on and on.
To my mind, this situation demands that we begin to
define what a "mature," or peak performing, peer
mediation program looks like: How it operates,
of impact it has, how it is regarded by the
students, teachers and administrators it serves, etc.
Why? For one, most people don't understand how
marvelous a peer mediation program can be. They only
know their own efforts and often hard-won results,
which usually represents an improvement upon what
came before. And this becomes their baseline.
Only by delineating the characteristics of "mature"
mediation programs will we educate and inspire students,
teachers and administrators to create programs that live
up to peer mediation's potential.
In addition, countless schools that do have peer
mediation programs, have efforts that are
under-performing. Because questionable quality is
currently the norm, many educators, especially
who might have had reservations about peer mediation
to begin with, feel justified in writing it off as ineffective
or not worth the trouble.
One goal of this year's volume of newsletters, then, will
be to gather criteria we can use to determine when
mediation programs realize their potential.
I hope you will join with me in exploring this topic. I will
share my ideas in future issues, but this project will
benefit greatly from your insights and experiences.
My hope is that, in the end, we can create a method to
publicly acknowledge the students and educators who
create high performing, "model" programs. Not only will
this honor them for their effort, it will "raise the bar" for
Less practice sessions; more "Appalachian Springs."
So, let's get started. How do you measure
peer mediation effort is peak performing? Do you run
such a program? Do you hope to? What criteria would
PS: Don't worry
about the quality of the writing when you respond;
we'll only post responses with your permission, and we'll
editing if you like.
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 institutions.
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