The School Mediator
Peer Mediation Insights From the Desk of Richard Cohen September, 2001

in this issue

Market This

Tip of the Month

Talking with Kids about Tragedy

About Us

Conference Announcement

On Friday, October 5, School Mediation Associates will once again bring the local peer mediation community together at the Sixth Annual Coordinators' Roundtable.

The conference will be held at The Sheraton Hotel in Lexington, MA from 8:30 to 2:30. We have an exciting day planned, and already have the largest number of early registrants ever. You need not have worked with SMA to attend.

Call us at 617-926-0994 or click on the link below for information.

Registration information for the Coordinator's Roundtable

Welcome to the premiere issue of The School Mediator.

Peer mediation programs can make schools more caring, safe, and effective places to work and learn. But implementing them is difficult and often isolating work.

We created this newsletter to support you and help you succeed. We hope you like it. Please send along your feedback and ideas; we'd be delighted to hear from you.

In the aftermath of last week's devastating events, what can we do but mourn the tragic loss of life, take comfort in our families and communities, and redouble our efforts to bring about peace and justice in this troubled world?

Wishing you a wonderful school year ahead,

Richard Cohen
Founder and Director
School Mediation Associates

PS: If you are not interested in receiving this newsletter, click on the unsubscribe button below and we will immediately take you off our subscriber list. Please accept our apologies for the inconvenience.

This month's feature article is about the importance of promoting peer mediation services within a school.

 Market This
At this time of year I always remember a conversation I had with one of my mediation heroes, Maija Gray. Maija is an experienced peer mediation coordinator and adjustment counselor at Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School in Easton, MA.

I was saying how impressed I was with her program's campaign to educate the school about mediation--an effort that included creative posters and student presentations. Maija responded, with just a little exasperation: "And we can never rest on our laurels as far as outreach is concerned. We have to do this year after year."

Now Maija runs the kind of peer mediation program that has helped me understand the potential of this work. Her mediators consistently handle 100 cases per year, and her diverse student body--as representative of the contemporary American teenager as you'll find in any school--thinks it is as cool to be a mediator as it is to be a football player.

Maija, her colleagues and students have created what I consider a "mature" mediation program. (More about "mature" mediation programs in next month's newsletter.)

Maija understands you will not have a successful peer mediation effort unless the school community is knowledgeable about and feels comfortable with your services. You can build a peer mediation program, but if you don't do outreach EVERY year, people in conflict simply won't come.

I dislike doing "outreach"--a euphemism for marketing--as much as the next person. Most likely more than the next person. (How many of you keep a running list of the disturbing places that you see ads? Most recent entry: on the basketball backboards at the boys and girls club.)

As distasteful as I find the increasingly intrusive tactics of the marketing profession, however, I have to admit that it has an important lesson for us. That is: Most people must be exposed to a new product or program repeatedly before they will integrate it into their daily lives.

For an illustration of this, we need look no further than my humble family. Rachel and I did our best to shield our five-year-old son, Sam, from the mother of all marketing phenomena, Pokemon. Sam nevertheless saw the odd photo of Pokemon in the newspaper, played with his friends' Pokemons in their homes, found a stray Pokemon card on the street, received a Pokemon birthday invitation, was given a Pokemon sticker at the doctor's office, and even received a Pokemon action figure from (you guessed it) his grandparents. In the end, what toy do you think accompanied him into the tub every night?

Of course, I don't confuse the often profound value of mediation with an over hyped child's toy, but the same principle applies. Students, teachers and administrators must:

* Hear about mediation from friends and colleagues who have tried it
* Learn about mediation from a history teacher who integrates conflict resolution into her curriculum
* See posters
* Talk with teams of mediators who visit health classes
* Listen to the "mediators' tip of the week" on the announcements
* Watch performances at the peer mediation sponsored talent show/fund raiser.

Only after repeated and positive exposure will they feel comfortable using your mediation services.

There is no better time to begin this work than now, when students and educators aren't wearing the blinders that routine creates. After recovering from the shock of being back in the building (and up so early!), everyone is wide-eyed, noting which boys the summer has blessed with facial hair, deciding where and with whom they are going to eat lunch, determining how far they can joke with a particular teacher or student. Any outreach effort will have a bigger impact upon such an accessible audience.

Remember too, that the best resource for marketing peer mediation is your student mediators. After watching a diverse group of student leaders demonstrate the poise, openness, and the simple truth about human relations that is at the heart of the mediation process, others can't help but be convinced.

A final thought: It requires courage to mediate one's conflicts. Who wants to sit and talk with a person who makes your chest feel like it is wrapped in bungy cords? We mediators know that in the long run, sitting down and talking with such a person is often the best thing that one can do.

But that doesn't mean it is easy. Your outreach campaign makes it that much more likely that students and teachers will take those brave steps down the hall and into the mediation room.


 Tip of the Month
Every Day is Game Day for Peer Mediators

In most schools, student athletes wear team jerseys on the day of a game. It generates awareness of and support for their efforts, and it increases camaraderie among teammates. Mediation coordinator extraordinaire Stephen Volpe, along with the wonderful peer mediators at Saugus High School, has expropriated this idea for outreach purposes.

Saugus High student mediators wear mediation t-shirts every Wednesday. This low-cost, low effort, high-impact idea creates a regular mediation presence in school, and leads to countless opportunities for educating people about mediation. Try it, and you'll see. (One caution: Be sure to solicit student input when designing t-shirts. If they don't like them, they won't want to wear them.)

We will be posting tips and ideas from peer mediation coordinators around the globe. We'd be honored if you would send us your best practices and suggestions.


 Talking with Kids about Tragedy
The Ohio Commission on Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management has set up a web page with information to help educators and other adults talk with children about last week's horrible events.

Click here to visit the Commission's web page

 About Us
For almost twenty 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 © 2001 School Mediation Associates. All rights reserved.


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