The School Mediator
Peer Mediation Insights From the Desk of Richard Cohen Vol. VII, 1/08

in this issue

Listen Like My iPod

A Poem in Honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Responses to "School Connectedness"

Richard Cohen Interested in Working Abroad in 2008

About Us

Newsletter Archive (and Index!) Available

Access past issues of The School Mediator, as well as our new index by topic, through the link below.

The School Mediator Archive












































The School Mediator's Field Guide:
Prejudice, Sexual Harassment, Large Groups and Other Daily Challenges
by Richard Cohen
more info

Students Resolving Conflict:
Peer Mediation in Schools

by Richard Cohen
more info

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,

Richard Cohen
Founder and Director
School Mediation Associates

PS: If you receive this free newsletter directly from us, you are already on our subscriber list. If a colleague forwarded it to you, you can easily subscribe by sending your email address to

To unsubscribe, just send us an email.

  • 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 world.

    Though I appreciate their perspective, I experience the iPod not as a method of retreating from reality, but as a way of embracing it.

    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 to me.

    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 time.

    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 connected.

    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...


    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. Day

  • 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 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 the 1990's.)

    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 students.

    The way we communicate with our students can change their lives.

    Bob Nelson, Ed.D., Peer Mediator Supervisor
    Pearce High School
    Richardson, Texas

    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 them.

    Finally, ask all adults to choose one of those students and make a conscious, daily effort to establish a connection with them.

    Barbara S. Grochal, Deputy Director
    School Conflict Resolution Education Programs
    Center for Dispute Resolution (C-DRUM)
    University of Maryland School of Law
    Baltimore, Maryland

  • Richard Cohen Interested in Working Abroad in 2008
  • Richard 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.

    More info...

  • About Us
  • For 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:
    Web us:
    Post us: 134w Standish Road,
    Watertown, MA 02472 USA

    Copyright © 2008 School Mediation Associates. You may reproduce this article by including this copyright and, if reproducing it electronically, including a link to

    email us :: visit our site
    phone: 617-926-0994
    This email was sent to,
    at your request,
    by School Mediation Associates.

    Visit our Subscription Center
    to edit your interests or unsubscribe.

    View our privacy policy.

    Newsletter created with
    assistance from
    Blue Penguin Development

    Powered by
    Constant Contact