Happy New Year and welcome to the January issue of
This month we explore the ongoing battle for truth,
justice, and a few referrals from the disciplinarian. Take a moment to send
along your thoughts.
Thank you to all who write to express how much you enjoy this
newsletter and to share your successes and concerns. It means a lot
to me to know that you are out there.
Wishing you the best, wherever you are,
Founder and Director
School Mediation Associates
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|Wherefore Art Thou, Administrative Support?
I have been thinking about the ongoing challenge of generating
administrative support for peer mediation.
Last month I discussed the status of a mediation program with the
educator who had implementing it. His program-based in a middle school
of approximately 800 students-had conducted 30 mediations sessions
during its first year of operation.
Anyone who has worked in a middle school, especially one with 800
students, knows that it wouldn't be hard to find students every single day
who might benefit from a mediation session. With only 30 cases, this
program was clearly under-performing.
Because the educator in question is unusually capable and committed,
however, I knew this couldn't be the whole story. His program should
have been more successful.
And then I asked him: "What percentage of your referrals come from
His answer: None. Not a single case had been
referred by an administrator!
All of his sessions resulted from
self-referrals-students who request the assistance of mediators to help
them resolve their problem.
Significantly, self-referrals are the gold standard of
referrals, the ones that require the most outreach to generate, the ones
that indicate the deepest confidence of the student body.
In the initial stages of peer mediation program implementation, it is
typical for 80 to 90% of referrals
to come from administrators. These referrals prime the pump, raise the
school community's awareness, and hopefully create a momentum that leads
students and teachers to utilize a program's services.
Upon hearing this new information, it was clear that my early (and
unspoken) evaluation of his program was flawed. Thirty self-referrals
in the first year of operation indicates that this coordinator and his
mediators were doing a phenomenal job.
But more to my point, and put bluntly: When are
school administrators going to wise up? What prevents so many from
understanding that peer mediation, utilized responsibly, is a tremendous
win for everyone-student leaders, students in conflict, teachers,
administrators, and the community as a whole?
I, like many of you, have conducted trainings for administrators, shown
them statistics, connected them with committed peers in other schools,
held their hands, kept them up-to-date on program successes, shown
flexibility and understanding and patience and...and...
...And still, too many schools have talented peer mediation
coordinators, an enthusiastic group of student mediators, and no support
As another excellent coordinator wrote me recently:
"I sometimes feel like our peer mediation program is
being used; we provide a valuable service, but there is
little reciprocation from our administration. I am certain
that if it were not for my tenacity, the program would
fade and disappear. Do other coordinators feel like the
support they get is just lip service?"
I am not saying all school administrators are dense. I admire some more
than I can say, and no kidding, some of my best friends are school
administrators. They are also under enormous pressure in this
politically conservative climate.
But the way I see it, school administrators are
responsible for making the peer mediation programs in
their schools successful. Once programs are functioning, this most
importantly means ensuring that peer mediators get conflicts to mediate.
This is not busy work, and it is not a matter of generating conflicts
that don't already exist. It means
directing the inevitable interpersonal tensions that do
occur to the mediation program.
Anything less, and administrators are simply not doing their jobs.
| Response to "Shy is Good"
Below are a few of the comments we received in response to last month's
newsletter about questioning peer mediation assumptions.
Regarding the reserved/noticeably quiet students in training.... Something I
learned by experience is you shouldn't mix really young mediator trainees
with older ones. They will lock down, shut up and just act "cute"
because they are intimidated by the older kids! They are afraid to open up
for fear of being laughed at or criticized.
And as far as Sacred Cows are concerned, I believe a teacher/monitor in the
room works okay with elementary youth, but when it comes to middle and high
schools, it's a deterrent to the whole process!
I have had some teachers/program coordinators tell me they've used younger
youth as mediators with older youth - they were their "best and
Peer Mediation Program Director
JALMC's Peer Mediation in Schools Program
Jamestown Area Labor Management Committee
Jamestown, NY USA
It was good to hear that "shy" students may find a place to be
more vocal and interactive with peers through peer mediation (not to mention
feeling helpful). Sounds like a "win-win" situation!
Winchester High School
Winchester, MA USA
Thanks for sending me TSM! I especially loved the piece "Shy is
Good." I'm going to pass it along to my 14 year old son who is
considering becoming a peer mediator but wonders whether his introversion
means he's not cut out for it. All the best,
| About Us
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.
Our books and training programs have been utilized by tens of thousands of people
around the world.
Call us: 617-926-0994
Post us: 134w Standish Road,
Watertown, MA 02472 USA
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