School Mediator's Field Guide:
Prejudice, Sexual Harassment,
Large Groups and Other Daily Challenges
Peer Mediation in Schools
Welcome to the October issue of The School
This month's issue reports on a recent international
conference that demonstrated the
global reach of peer mediation.
Wishing you the best, wherever you are,
Founder and Director
School Mediation Associates
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| Peer Mediation World-Wide
I have long known that peer mediation is practiced
outside of North America. But, like most of us, I largely
attend to my own small corner of the world, consumed
with the unique challenges and victories I experience
Last month, however, I lived what felt like a marvelous
dream: People from every corner of the globe--speaking
countless languages, displaying every skin tone, in a
variety of regional dress--gathered together to share
their experience teaching young people to live in peace.
This "dream" was the Conflict Resolution in Schools:
Learning to Live Together conference, held in
sponsored by the European Centre for Conflict Prevention
(and so capably organized by Paul van Tongeren and
The working group on peer mediation that I co-led
included practitioners from almost every continent (20
nations were representing by 30 participants). Ours was
one of about 10 working groups--on topics such as
restorative practices, curriculum change, and
co-existence education in multi-cultural settings--that
met during the two-day conference.
The term "working group" was fitting. Although a few
group members were new to peer mediation, many had
extensive experience implementing peer mediation and
other conflict resolution programs, often under far more
difficult conditions than I will ever experience here in
Massachusetts. Their hard-won insight was impressive.
Outside of our working group sessions-in the halls, the
dining room, the plenaries--I felt as if I was attending a
large and supportive family gathering: After ending one
fascinating conversation, I couldn't walk two paces
before I was beginning another.
I left for home exhausted (great excitement + jet lag =
no sleep) and with a renewed sense of commitment to
And my practice is already changing in at least three
First, I now strive to impress upon peer mediators that
they are part of a global "alliance" of peacemakers.
When they mediate, they should know that hundreds of
other students--in Chile, Austria, the Ukraine, Ghana,
India, Palestine, South Africa, Portugal, and so on--are
also mediating in their schools.
Second, with the encouragement of working group
members, I hope to infuse The School Mediator
sense of this broader, global movement. I will soon begin
a regular feature that highlights the work of peer
mediation efforts around the world.
Finally, in an effort to replicate my wonderful conference
experience for others, I hope to design a web-based
system that will enable student mediators and their
coordinators to correspond, share experiences, and learn
from their counterparts around the globe. Please
contact me if you would like to help create this tool.
The conference was not all sweetness and light,
though. With what seems like innumerable areas of
strife and woe in the world, and with the US government
squandering billions of dollars on misguided military
ventures, there were disheartening moments.
An Israeli woman in particular expressed this sentiment
poignantly. As panelists from the US and UK dissected
what to her was a
relatively superfluous issue, she expressed frustration
at having trained many young people (including her own
son) to be peer mediators, only to see them conscripted
into the military after graduation. Is our work, she
implied, with its undeniable limitations, making a
At the final plenary, however, I was lucky enough to sit
next to Emma Kamara from Sierra Leone. In a country
that only recently emerged from a gruesome civil war,
Emma quit her comfortable university professorship to
start a program that serves disadvantaged youth.
During the conference's closing minutes, Emma turned to
me and said: "I see how many more problems
would be in the world if these people were not doing this
An inspiring "glass-is-half-full" attitude from someone
who likely has experienced more reasons than most to
And so we go on, yes?
Would you like to connect with other peer mediators and
coordinators around the world?
Send me an email.
Learn more about the European Centre for Conflict Prevention.
| Response to "About Time"
Below are two of a number of responses we received to
the questionnaire featured in last month's issue about time and peer mediation coordination. I have
posted one from a part-time coordinator, another from a
full-time coordinator. I happen to know that both of
these programs are peak performing, with hard working and
unusually talented and
The Two Coordinators are:
Randi Orpen, Spanish Teacher and Peer
Mediation Coordinator, Woburn High School, Woburn MA.
Randi's responses are in "normal" font.
Francine Rondina, SCORE Peer Mediation
Coordinator, Lowell High School, Lowell, MA.
Francine's responses are in italics.
1. Characteristic of your school:
Level (elementary, middle, high, other):
Number of students :
Woburn High School has @ 1300 students from families
with middle to lower class incomes. Our student
population has changed rapidly over the last 5 years,
from 100% Caucasian to about 15% other races and
ethnicities (Hispanic, Asian, Arab, African-American).
Lowell High School has @ 4,000 students from diverse
socio-economic backgrounds. We are very diverse
ethnically, with 42% Caucasian, 36% Asian, and 16%
Latino among others.
2. Location of your school by country and
3. How would you characterize the level of
administrative support for peer mediation (high, medium,
The administration provides complete support
High level of support
4. What is your formal title (teacher, counselor,
peer mediation coordinator, etc.)?
Full-time Spanish teacher (as well as Peer Mediation
Coordinator, Mentor/Protégé Co-coordinator, and
Interact advisor for the Rotary Club)
Peer Mediation Coordinator
5. What do you do on an average day in
to coordinating the peer mediation program?
I teach 5 classes (Spanish 1 - Spanish 5 A.P.),
homeroom duties, and extra-curricular club meetings
Nothing apart from mediation coordinator
6. How many cases does your peer mediation
program mediate each year?
110 cases last year
180 cases last year
7. How many hours during school do you
to peer mediation per week?
About 5 hours per week. My daily duty period is devoted
to peer mediation.
36 hours per week
8. How many hours outside of school do
devote to peer mediation per week?
9. Do other adults assist you with program
coordination? How do they help (conduct intake
interviews, supervise sessions, oversee outreach,
Yes. When my work load occasionally becomes
overwhelming, I ask teachers (who have been trained as
mediators) for assistance in conducting intake interviews
and supervising sessions. These same colleagues, along
with student mediators, also help interview, evaluate,
and select mediation trainees each year.
No, I don't have other adults who assist me.
10. How are you compensated for coordinating
peer mediation program? (i.e. no compensation, given
time during the day, given a lighter class load, given peer
mediation instead of another contractual "duty", given a
stipend, paid a salary, etc.)?
I receive a contractual stipend for extra-curricular
I am paid a salary.
11. Aside from the monetary compensation (if
receive it), what motivates you to do this work?
It is a wonderful way to meet students who are not in
my classes and to interact with our diverse student
body. I enjoy seeing students' reaction to the intake
interview, and I am continually reminded not to judge a
book by its cover! I also truly believe that
communication is our best tool to promote
I believe in modeling nonviolent resolutions to
12. How much time would you estimate you
devote to each case on average (include intake,
selecting mediators, supervising the session, following-up
with parties, etc)?
About two hours on average.
About 2.5 hours, but it is hard to estimate because
kids come back with personal problems and in times of
crises, and I spend the time with them and help them
access the resources they need.
13. Estimate the percentage of time that you
devote to actual case work (taking referrals, supervising
sessions, following up with parties, etc.) vs. outreach,
training, other conflict resolution activities, etc.?
Of the time I devote to peer mediation, 80% is actual
case work. We conduct intensive outreach to
prospective mediators each spring: 1.5 weeks of
"spreading the word" and distributing/collecting
applications, and 3 weeks of after school interviews (1
hour each day, 5 days a week). Training requires 3 full
days in the fall.
80% case work
14. What do you estimate would be the ideal
amount of time in which to coordinate a peer mediation
program in your school (1 hour per day, 3 hours
Ideally, 2 hours a day, or a "two fifths" position. Right
now it's 1 hour (one fifth) and I often feel rushed and 'on
the run' when we receive referrals. There are 'down
times' during the year, however, when there are no
referrals. It can be like a roller coaster: When the
referrals come in, I'm running. Then I look forward to the
lull, which I use to catch my breath. Then I want to "get
15. What would be your initial priorities if you
more time to devote to peer mediation?
Ongoing training for the mediators, perhaps a part-time
class on mediation would be terrific and help us refine our
skills, talk about problems, etc. Ideally it would be part
of the school curriculum, and could be offered as a
Tues/Thurs course for 1/2 year.
I would have classes to teach kids how to
recognize their emotions, develop conflict resolution
skills, and (if I had the power) place many of them into
| About SMA
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