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The School Mediator Archive
Welcome to the December issue of The School
This month we explore how many "fundamental
truths" of peer mediation have been modified over
the years. Take a moment to send along your
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season,
Founder and Director
School Mediation Associates
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|Shy is Good
|or The Death of Sacred Cows
"The hardest students to train as mediators are those
who are very shy."
I have offered this stock bit of advice countless times to
educators who are implementing peer mediation
Only one problem. I have been wrong.
I came to understand this last month after completing
yet another training in which the most talented student
mediators in the group--as demonstrated by their
sensitive work during small group role-plays--were the
same students who never opened their mouths
when sitting with the 'large group' of 22.
School Mediation Associates' trainings are as
dynamic and interactive as any. It probably requires
more effort to be quiet than to participate. And if I
didn't know any better, I might have assumed that these
quiet (read "shy") students weren't learning very much.
But here at least, the shyest students were in fact
What I had done, I realize now, was confuse quiet/shy
with "unassertive." For it is true: Students who are
uncomfortable asserting themselves with their peers
don't make the most effective mediators. But this is not
necessarily true of students who are simply more
You don't have to be the life-of-the-party to be a
And so, with all due respect to my Hindu friends, another
of my sacred cows bit the dust.
This has me thinking about all the other peer mediation
"truths" I have been disabused of by the insistent push
of real world experience.
* Peer mediation has to be voluntary.
distinguish between attending a session (not necessarily
voluntary) and participating in it (absolutely voluntary)
* Student mediators should not know the parties
conflicts they mediate.
Some programs enable
disputants to select student mediators who they know
and with whom they feel most comfortable-and it works.
* Adult coordinators should not be in the room when
I have come to accept this
partially in response to some educators' insistence,
partially because can be useful for ongoing training.
* Student parties should each receive a copy of any
agreement that they create during mediation.
was, they received their copies and then left them lying
on a table in the cafeteria. Now many coordinators keep
the only copy of the agreement in their offices.
There are numerous less dramatic (and less certain)
examples. Disciplinarians who also coordinate peer
mediation programs; peer mediators who receive minimal
training and yet are effective; mediators who serve
students older than themselves.
Not everything is relative, of course. But we all know
that with maturity and experience, ones' certainties can
seem not so certain after all.
Has experience convinced you that any of
mediation's "sacred cows" should be revisited?
|Response to "Mediators Compete"
Below are a few of the comments we received in
response to last month's newsletter about the SCRAM
program from Australia.
Actually, we do have a similar model here in the
US, called Mediation Showcase. Street Law, Inc., and
specifically Judy Zimmer, the author of We Can Work It
Out, a classroom mediation skills program, developed the
Mediation Showcase model. We used it here in Maine in
Teachers agreed to use the We Can Work It Out text
and practice mediations as part of their classroom
curriculum. Then the classroom mediators from about a
dozen schools met at our state capitol in Augusta for a
round-robin "competition," playing both disputant roles
and acting as co-mediators during the round robin.
We used professional mediators as evaluators, with a
scoresheet. All mediators were given feedback on their
skills. We did declare a "winner" at the end of the day,
but it was clear all the teams really won! Several of
these schools went on to develop an active peer
There is a detailed notebook on how to run a Mediation
Showcase available from Street Law. I haven't checked
to see whether these Showcase programs are still being
run around the country. We haven't done it again
because it was a large organizational effort for us, and
we already coordinate a statewide Peer Mediation
Association of Maine with several conferences each
But the model is out there!
University of Maine School of Law
Portland, Maine USA
Thank you for your succinct article on SCRAM, which
picked up the essence of the competition. In Western
Australia we have grappled with the conundrum of
mediation juxtaposed with competition in two ways: the
first round of the competition is a feedback only round
for all teams and is not scored; teams can opt out of
being scored and receive only feedback, in subsequent
rounds, relinquishing their eligibility for the grand final.
My name is Kristy Filbin, I am a volunteer mediator with
Clark County Juvenile Court Victim Offender Mediation
Program. Our director sends us your newsletter and I
enjoy these articles very much.
I did not like the idea of competition either, until I came
across this article that told me the original definition of
competition: to strive together. So as we head
into our worlds, lets "compete' for peace!
For almost twenty years, School Mediation Associates
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mediation in schools. SMA's mission is to transform
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