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Peer Mediation in Schools
Welcome to the June issue of
Mediator, our final issue for the 08-09 school year.
This month we discuss the power of demonstration as a
mediation teaching strategy.
Please send along your thoughts and
experiences. It is always a pleasure to hear from you.
Wishing a wonderful Summer to all of you up here in the
Founder and Director
School Mediation Associates
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|Don't Just Do Something, Watch!|
Twenty years ago I began swimming for exercise. I couldn't
knees hurt too much.
Though I never took swimming lessons, I cobbled together a passable
stroke from the informal and haphazard
received as a kid.
The other day in the pool, however, I realized that I've had an
recently. You've probably heard of him: Michael
American swimming phenom and winner of 8
gold medals in last summer's Olympic games.
For the record, I've never had any personal contact with Mr.
Phelps. As far as I
know, I've never been in the same ocean as him, no less the
So how did he teach me?
I watched him swim.
Observing Phelps compete last
my swimming experience. Technical things, like the way my
water, and how long I remain submerged after my turn, as well
how I feel during my workout, and the energy I bring to the
I push harder, feel stronger, and strive to emulate the fluidity
All these improvements--technical as well as attitudinal--simply from
observing someone who was much more skilled than me.
I now wonder whether we mediation trainers have sacrificed
strategy--the observation of a skilled practitioner--on the altar
most by doing" approach to teaching. Let me explain.
Many educators, whether we are aware of it or not, have
influenced by the so-called Learning Pyramid,
a popular theoretical model that purports the following:
more of what they learn when they do it as opposed to when
someone else demonstrate it.
Though the origin (and therefore the validity) of the
uncertain, the model
nevertheless makes intuitive sense: the act of doing, of
what one has
learned, appears to enable one to integrate new knowledge
than merely watching someone else.
And so School Mediation Associates' (and probably your) peer
mediation training is full of opportunities for trainees to "do," which in
this context means mediate. Most notable are the numerous roleplays in which
students mediate simulated disputes and receive feedback from trainers and
This is it should be: roleplays are a wonderful, albeit an imperfect,
But in our training, opportunities for peer mediation trainees
mediate, beyond a couple of brief demonstrations, are few
(There is only so much time in a training.)
My experience "with" Phelps, however, has me looking for additional
enable students to observe experienced mediators in
During their initial training, for example, trainers can
during roleplays to
model particular interventions.
After the training, peer mediators can sit in on and
experienced mediators conduct real sessions. Veteran
coordinators can also demonstrate strategies during
follow-up training sessions.
I am not suggesting that we give up all the effective "doing"
have built into our
trainings. Phelps taught me much by his example, but I only
integrated what I
learned when I actually applied it in the pool.
Demonstration as a teaching strategy has its pitfalls too,
notably that it is
primarily passive. With something as subtle and slow
mediating--unlike an Olympic race!--this can lead to inattention and
But demonstrating things to our students is a valuable and
I want to do it more.
And I have Mr. Phelps to thanks for that.
thoughts...? How do you demonstrate the mediation process in your
We can all learn
from your experiences.
|Response to "This Must Be Difficult"|
| ||We received a number of responses to the last issue
of The School Mediator. They follow below...
I think empathy is the most important ingredient in
mediation; in fact, it is the essential component to all
I would go so far as to say empathy
is "necessary and sufficient" to promote mental health
in students and teachers.
In my experience, more often than not, if empathy is
established in a mediation, the rest of the steps flow
rather easily and naturally.
The really interesting and important question to ask
ourselves is: What interferes with developing
empathy? Sometimes we cannot empathize out of
fear or prejudice or boredom or personal issues or any
number of things. Whatever the reason, the lack of
empathy dooms the mediation to failure or
Someone told me a long time ago: "All we can ever
truly give anyone is our presence."
I would add
that empathy is the only true manifestation of that
presence. That may not seem like much, but it is, in
Bob Nelson, Ed.D.
Peer Mediator & Peer Helper Supervisor
Pearce High School
I simply had to respond to this month's topic--empathy.
As far as I am concerned, empathy has always been
an integral part of the 'magic' of mediation. It helps
parties to feel like they have been fully heard, which,
in turn, enables them to let go of some of their anger
and hurt feelings.
The ability to step into the shoes of the parties and
verbally acknowledge how they seem to perceive their
situations - without taking a position either for or
against them - is really one of the most powerful skills
a mediator can offer.
During training, it is essential for potential mediators to
spend time exploring and acknowledging how they
feel when other people have and show feelings! Our
culture, for the most part, tends to have a negative
view of people expressing public feelings; they are
often considered to be out of control.
Once mediators understand that feelings are normal and
belong to the parties-and that holding their hands
(sympathy) is not required--it works wonderfully!
| ||For almost twenty-five years, School Mediation
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
of thousands of people around the world.
Call us: 617-926-0994
Post us: 134w Standish Road,
MA 02472 USA
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