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School Mediator's Field Guide:
Sexual Harassment, Large Groups and Other
Peer Mediation in Schools
Happy New Year and welcome to the January issue
of The School Mediator.
This month we explore the connection between listening to
music and listening to parties during a mediation session.
As always, please send along your thoughts and experiences.
Send us three favorite songs as well (see below)!
Wishing you the best, wherever you are,
Founder and Director
School Mediation Associates
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Listen Like My iPod
I am not what is known as an "early adopter" of new technologies.
I would still be waiting in line to pay the turnpike toll if
my wife hadn't registered us for Massachusetts' undeniably
convenient electronic payment system, Fast Lane.
And even though music is one of my passions, I own an iPod only because Apple gave me one as a free gift when I purchased a computer.
Some of my friends view iPods with disdain, cringing at the
sight of white cords descending from so many ears. They see
iPods as yet another barrier between people in an already disconnected
Though I appreciate their perspective, I experience the iPod
not as a method of retreating from reality, but as a way of
It has done wonders, at least, for my listening experience.
Like many music enthusiasts, my music collection-- accumulated
over many decades of listening--is wide ranging and unique
I would more likely win the lottery than hear a radio station
play my favorite artists in the same segment.
So when I put in my ear buds and hear Paul Robeson's "Balm
in Gilead," followed by The Incredible String Band's "Maya," Charlie
Sepulveda's "New Arrival," Steve Reich's "Tehillim," The Waterboys' "Whole
of the Moon," Jane Siberry's "Hockey," Talib Kweli's "Joy," and
so on...I enter my own musical nirvana.
I hear familiar songs as if I am hearing them for the first
And most surprising: I find myself startled by how well my
iPod knows me, even though I put the music on the iPod in
the first place! I converted my favorite pieces
of music into digital files; I loaded 1000 of them onto
the device; and I then instructed it to play them back
in random order.
I controlled the input, and yet I am surprised when I hear
it played back to me.
Sounds like what happens in peer mediation.
Much of what we do as mediators is serve as figurative iPods
for parties: they "input" their life experiences, feelings
and concerns by talking with us, and we let them know we understand
by "playing it back" to them.
And like my iPod experience, after hearing us repeat back what
they have told us, parties often gain new and surprising insights.
Equally significant, playing back the parties "soundtrack" also
builds their trust in us and tends to make them feel safe and
Of course, mediators do more than merely play back what parties
tell us: we synthesize, we draw out deeper and sometimes hidden
meanings, we help parties connect seemingly unrelated information,
we empathize with their experiences.
We listen better than a mechanical device ever could.
But it is good to be reminded that just by "playing back" what
parties tell us, we can do them an important service.
And now for something completely different...
SEND IN YOUR FAVORITE SONGS
Gather a diverse group of people, and you're likely to find
that they appreciate a wide variety of music.
During School Mediation Associates' trainings, we often explore musical preferences as a way to build trust
and encourage respect for differences. People can be as judgmental
about music as about anything else--"I can't believe you like
'country' music--and so trainees are often initially hesitant
to share their musical preferences. But it is a fun and relatively
low-risk way to build group cohesion.
Inspired by this month's newsletter, I thought it would be
fun to do the same here. Send in your current favorite three
songs, including artist and song title. Don't fret over this:
Just send in three songs you are enjoying these days. If enough
of you respond, I'll compile the list and post it next month.
Here are my three:
Chris Whitley's "Narcotic Prayer" Haunting and soulful.
Martyn Bennett's "Tongues of Kali" I have played this hybrid Scottish-techno
song during every peer mediation training I have conducted
over the last ten years. I never tire of it.
The Finn Brothers' "Anything Can Happen."
Please share your thoughts, experiences,
and favorite songs...
A Poem in Honor of Martin Luther King Jr.
This poem was written by Abdi Ali, an impressive
peer mediator who attends East Boston High
School and hails originally from Somalia. Abdi
knows first hand of what he speaks.
WE ARE ALL THE SAME
We are all the same because we are from one person.
We are all the same because we live together in one world,
and share the beauty of nature. In our world today there are
many tragedies such as disease, poverty, and natural disasters.
But the major one is war in which many people die without good
reason and suffer pain, horror, and destruction. War also creates
orphans and bereaved family members.
We are all the same. Let us respect and tolerate each other,
even though we may have differences.
We are all the same whether we are white or black, Christian,
Muslim, Jew or Gentile.
We are all the same because we are all human beings.
We are all the same because God created us equal.
We are all the same. Now is the time to unite and put our hands
together and make our world better. We are still strong enough
and brave enough. Let us fight poverty, famine and diseases.
Let us bond.
We are all the same.
Responses to "School Connectedness"
Below are the two responses we received to last month's newsletter...
Your theme of the power of relationships in schools has been
a mantra of mine for decades. When we break down all the important
components of a good school, I believe the single greatest
factor is the quality of the relationships between teachers
and students. Unfortunately, this quality is often overlooked
or taken for granted.
We scrutinize curriculum and teaching strategies, yet it is
rapport that make the other parts work. With quality communication,
any lesson can succeed and without it, none are successful.
I am proud to say that my school and my district have come
to realize this fact. Although we have a well- deserved reputation
for academic excellence, we address the emotional needs of
students as well as we can. In my experience, meeting the needs
of students actually increases their academic performance.
This is one of the themes in my self-published novel, Homeroom: A Shelter From the Storm. (I chose a fictional format, but the
essence of the story is based on my experiences teaching during
At the risk of engaging in a cheap advertisement, I encourage
your readers to check it out on Amazon. It is a testimonial
to the power of honest, caring communication with high school
The way we communicate with our students can change their lives.
Bob Nelson, Ed.D., Peer Mediator Supervisor
Pearce High School
I couldn't agree more with the importance of school connectedness.
Several years ago I heard an idea that seems both powerful
and simple to implement. Post a list of all students in the
school in the faculty lounge with a column for adults (including
paraprofessionals, bus drivers, etc.) to initial. Request that
adults place their initials beside the names of students with
whom they feel connected.
Leave the list posted and observe how certain names have no
initials beside them. These are the students who probably do
not feel connected, as clearly no adult feels connected to
Finally, ask all adults to choose one of those students and
make a conscious, daily effort to establish a connection with
Barbara S. Grochal, Deputy Director
School Conflict Resolution Education Programs
Center for Dispute Resolution (C-DRUM)
University of Maryland School of Law
Richard Cohen Interested in Working Abroad
Cohen is hoping to work outside the United States
for a number of months between June 2008 and
January 2009. If you or your organization would
benefit from having Richard's expertise close
at hand, please follow the link below.
twenty-four 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. Our books and training programs have been utilized by tens of thousands of people
around the world.
Call us: 617-926-0994
Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Web us: www.schoolmediation.com
Post us: 134w Standish Road,
Watertown, MA 02472 USA
Copyright © 2008 School Mediation Associates. You may
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