Island School students learn conflict resolution in peer mediation skills program

November 3, 2017
By Marcy Shortuse

■ BY SUE ERWIN
Seven students at The Island School were selected at the beginning of the school year to be part of a program called “Peer Mediation.”
The student trainees have been practicing conflict resolution and peer mediation skills for eight weeks during what usually is their recess and lunch time. Facilitators of the training are Chris Thompson and Nicole Tillotson.
School counselor Chris Thompson and other staff members selected fourth and fifth grade students based on their personal skills, abilities and commitment.
Thompson came up with the idea to teach students to problem solve on their own with assistance from their peers.
“It helps them understand that conflict is always going to occur at every stage of their lives and learning to problem solve is a very important skill to have for success in anything,” Thompson said.
The mediation occurs when two or three students experience a conflict. The leaders are taught listening skills, and how to guide peers to come up with their own solutions.
Although the training utilizes role-playing, it represents real life situations that occur throughout the student’s day.
“They listen to both sides of the problem, determine what the issue is and then paraphase their understanding of how the students dealing with the conflict are feeling,” Thompson said.
“In today’s society, I really think our kids need to communicate more. Peer mediation motivates and teaches students to talk things out rather than fight things out. Students learn to resolve their conflicts collaboratively.”
The mediators must promise to stay neutral and provide leading questions to help come up with possible solutions. They must also pledge to keep all the information they hear confidential.
“We want them to learn about boundaries and understand what is said in that room remains in that room,” Thompson said.
The kids will be mediating students of all grade levels.
Thompson and Tillotson will pair the mediators with students, and guide them if they need advice on how to deal with a matter.
The leaders will begin to mediate conflicts between students during the next several weeks.
Student mediators participating in the program are: Edwin Garcia, Angelina Doherty, Willow Shantar, Ava Teaney, Morgan Holmes, Rory Shortuse and Eirinn Shortuse.
When the students were asked about the leadership experience, Willow said she wanted to do it to stop disputes before they turn overly dramatic at school.
“I realize there are 60 kids at this school, and we all can argue like brothers and sisters and I want to stop the drama,” Willow said.
Ava said she likes peer mediation because it helps kids communicate better and it also helps make the school a better place.
“I want to stop name calling and bullying before it gets bad,” Ava said.
Edwin said the difficult part about being a mediator will be trying to suggest behaviors instead of telling the students how to act.
Morgan said the hardest part was memorizing what questions to ask the students.
“Sometimes it’s just hard to know what to say when people argue.”