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The School Mediator's Field Guide:
Prejudice, Sexual Harassment, Large Groups and Other Daily Challenges
Students Resolving Conflict:
Peer Mediation in Schools
A complete guide to implementing, operating, and maintaining peer mediation programs.
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|Welcome to the December issue of The School Mediator.
This month we trace the common roots of the most popular programs used to improve school climate.
Please send along your thoughts and experiences. It is always a great pleasure to hear from you.
Wishing you much joy during the Holiday Season,
Founder and Director
School Mediation Associates
Safe Schools: From One Tree, Many Branches
use many programs to improve school climate.
far as I can tell, these programs are branches from the same tree.
all strive to make schools:
Safe, by preventing and protecting students from harm,
and repairing harm when it does occur, and
Caring, by encouraging adults and young people to
develop positive, supportive connections with one another.
schools are safe and caring, not only are they more pleasant places to teach
and learn, they enable teachers and students alike to do their best work.
there is overlap among programs' tactics and goals, each has its own flavor.
a brief tour of the major branches that I see:
Mediation: The program that is dearest to my
heart. Here a diverse cadre of
student leaders develop strong connections with each other, learn conflict
resolution skills and attitudes, and then serve their peers as role
facilitate a mediation process that empowers their peers to resolve inevitable
interpersonal conflicts, thereby repairing damaged relationships. Overwhelmingly, students who
participate in mediation sessions are able to resolve their differences
Work: This work addresses--ideally on a systemic basis--the
long-neglected problem of bullying in schools. Efforts focus first on the administration and staff, enabling them to have the
knowledge, the confidence, the tools and the sensitivity to effectively address
students who bully and those who are bullied. The work also aims to empower the student body--the majority
of whom are not directly affected by bullying--to become "active bystanders" who
take a stand to prevent or
interrupt bullying and teasing.
Leadership/Mentoring: This includes a wide range of efforts that enable
students to take the lead in improving school climate. Some efforts focus on mentoring younger
students. Others provide academic
or social support, have students embody and model a school's unique
mission, or help young people make the transition between middle and high
school. The most successful of
these efforts recruit and train a diverse cross-section of the student body.
Conflicts Among Adults: Yes, adults become involved in conflicts too, and longstanding
tensions among adults make educators feel unsafe and can impede their effectiveness.
Though administrators often manage communication and personality
differences on their own, sometimes it's helpful to employ mediators from
outside the building. Though this
confidential work flies under the radar, it can be a powerful intervention to
improve school climate.
Practices: Restorative practices refers to a
continuum of practices designed to build relationships in the classroom and the
school, and to repair and restore
those relationships when they have been damaged. Questioning the common assumption that punishment works to
hold wrongdoers accountable, restorative practices instead stress developing
personal responsibility, empowering victims, and creating community. RP particularly excels at addressing
disciplinary issues and conflicts in which an individual or group has caused harm to others
who are blameless (situations that are not well suited to mediation).
These efforts provide a structure and training for adults to build
supportive personal relationships with students. Advisors may meet with small groups of students or
one-on-one. Typically advisors
meet with their advisees once per week during a designated slot in the school
schedule, sometimes delivering an interactive, customized curriculum created by
an ideal world schools would implement all of these programs. Limitations
of time, energy and funding, however, mean that most schools engage in only one or two,
schools, for example, use peer mediation to address student interpersonal
conflicts, but continue to handle disciplinary matters using punitive
approaches that neither restore relationships nor encourage offending students
to truly take responsibility for their actions.
schools implement advisor-advisee programs, but provide few avenues that
empower students to resolve their own conflicts.
all do what we can, particularly in these lean times.
it is an interesting tree, isn't it?
School Mediation Associates has engaged with schools on all of these efforts. Please contact us
if we can help.
do you see this all fitting
together? Have I missed a program,
or an important aspect of a program?
Please share your thoughts...