The School Mediator
Peer Mediation Insights From the Desk of Richard Cohen Vol. VIII, 9/08

in this issue

A Parade for Peer Mediation Coordinators

Response to "Letting Things Be Wrong"

About Us

Newsletter Archive (and Index!) Available

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The School Mediator's Field Guide:
Prejudice, Sexual Harassment, Large Groups and Other Daily Challenges
by Richard Cohen
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Students Resolving Conflict:
Peer Mediation in Schools

by Richard Cohen
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Welcome to the September issue of The School Mediator.

This issue is posted in celebration and gratitude for the hard work of peer mediation coordinators everywhere.

Please send along your thoughts and experiences. It is always a pleasure to hear from you.

Wishing you the best, wherever you are,

Richard Cohen
Founder and Director
School Mediation Associates

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  • A Parade for Peer Mediation Coordinators

  • A few weeks ago I learned that a peer mediation coordinator whom I greatly respect, I'll call him Constantine, lost his job.

    A model educator and all around great guy, Constantine possesses the qualities I have admired in many peer mediation coordinators: "off-the-charts" interpersonal intelligence, the ability to build caring relationships with adults and young people quickly, hardworking, compassionate and politically savvy.

    His peer mediation program met my definition of a "peak performing" mediation program. Hundreds of students were trained as mediators during his tenure, and thousands participated in mediation sessions.

    Because the circumstance of his leaving were difficult, Constantine did not receive the send off that he deserved.

    His dedication and service warranted a farewell banquet; he barely got a thank you.

    After my initial shock and disappointment subsided, I began to wonder: Did educators at his school appreciate what a positive impact Constantine had on their students?

    Clearly the answer was no.

    The reason, I think, is partly this: Peer mediation coordinators are relatively invisible.


    Peer Mediation Coordinator positions are generally not on the books
    Though some coordinators hold full or part-time positions, the overwhelming majority--90% or more--are teachers or counselors first, peer mediation coordinators second. They might receive a stipend, they even might be assigned one less class to teach, but they coordinate the program in addition to their regularly scheduled job. Significantly, their responsibilities as coordinator are not part of their official job description, they are not evaluated on their peer mediation work, and their compensation, if they receive any, does not come from the regular school budget.

    Peer Mediation Coordination is largely a facilitative role
    Coordinators help students help each other. They arrange the logistics, and then stand back while young people do the glory work. More the manager behind the scenes than the lead singer in the band, coordinators are often not recognized for their contribution. (Despite this, many coordinators exhibit a humbleness and selflessness that would look good on any educator: it is not about them, it is about their students.)

    Peer Mediation Coordinators' work is confidential
    Coordinators are forbidden from discussing a large portion of their work with anyone else in their buildings. This only serves to increase their invisibility.

    Though they have an impact upon students as powerful as anyone in their buildings, peer mediation coordinators' work falls in the cracks, hidden from the view of many of their colleagues.

    Is this a problem? I think so, and perhaps in a future issue we can discuss how to address this challenge.

    But for now, and inspired by Constantine's departure, I want to start this year by celebrating the accomplishments of peer mediation coordinators everywhere.

    In fact, I have organized a virtual parade. Throngs are on either side of the street composed of all the students you have ever trained as mediators, all the young people and adults who have participating in mediation sessions, and many others-- peers, teachers, parents, siblings, community members--who, though one or two degrees removed from mediators and parties, have also benefited from your work.

    All you have to do is stroll down the street.

    The crowd is shouting your name, giving you high fives, throwing flowers...

    They have all come out to say one thing to you:

    Thank you!

    Your thoughts...?

  • Response to "Letting Things Be Wrong"

  • We received a number of responses to the last issue of The School Mediator. They follow below...

    I find your thoughts very much on target.

    Mediation is not a mechanical process based only on knowledge and the mastery of skills; it is very much intertwined with our life experiences. Our personal growth and professional development always present opportunities for new depth and breadth of understanding of the mediation process.

    We may be going in the same direction, but not on the same path, or at the same pace.

    Luis Borri, Chaplain
    School of Law
    Inter American University
    San Juan, Puerto Rico

    Your most recent article are the words of a well seasoned mediator.

    Ultimately, it is up to the participants to find their own solutions. If they don't within the time span of their mediation, the process of a well-run, respectful mediation begins to carve a path for them which may help them find a solution in the future.

    Much of our work is planting seeds; sometimes we get to see what comes up...sometimes we can only wait and hope.

    Thanks for the reminder and for the support for our work.

    Ellie Dendahl, Coordinator
    School Mediation Program
    Santa Fe Public Schools
    Santa Fe, New Mexico

    Thank you for this issue. I especially liked your closing, "Work hard, create a space for peace, and hope for the best." I may add that phrase to my training.

    I often remind myself and those I train that "it's not our lives" that we're talking about.

    I explain to parties too that I am definitely not "the decider;" that it's not about me. Parties find it reassuring to know that ultimately they are in charge, and it is an easy way to talk about self-determination.

    Carol Stewart, Program Director
    NH Mediation Program
    Concord, New Hampshire

  • 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:
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    Post us: 134w Standish Road,
    Watertown, MA 02472 USA

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