"Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime." (Chinese Proverb)
(May 16, 2012 – Riverhead, NY) The Chinese proverb, "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime . . . " is also applicable to the communication skills a student can learn that will help that student throughout his or her entire life. Learning to mediate conflict is a skill that can change a young person's life. The recent Conflict Mediation training workshop conducted at Riverhead High School by Conflict Mediation Advisors, Darren Dunn (RMS) and Garrett Moore (RHS Council for Unity instructor) and Theresa Drozd (K-12 Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention Coordinator, ESBOCES) may do just that for both the students who act as mediators and the students who come to them for mediation.
Riverhead Middle School English teacher Darren Dunn states, “I’ve been the Conflict Mediation advisor at the middle school for about 12 years, and in that time, we usually mediate between 30-40 conflicts per year. The student-mediators take their roles very seriously, learning how to avoid judging or blaming, and the disputants appreciate the fact that it’s not a staff member handing out consequences or telling them what they have to do. Students see conflict as a normal part of life and work constructively to problem-solve and come away with a win-win agreement. The administration values the program for what it does, and what it helps them to accomplish. For instance, instead of handing out detentions, etc., students learn real-life strategies to handle conflict. I follow up frequently with the disputants, and I find that this program has roughly a 95% success rate. Students appreciate the opportunity, and the resolutions that they come up with typically remain intact.”
Twenty-eight 7th graders participated in the Conflict Mediation training workshop:
Mr. Dunn, Mr. Moore, and Ms. Drozd conducted the workshop and six experienced student mediators, Jade McKreith (RMS), Jesse Hopkins, Breanna Flemming, Reggie Moore, Tyesha Harrell, and Jeffrey Pittman (all high school student mediators), worked in small groups (under supervision) with the seventh graders through simulated mediations to teach the 7th grade mediators to use the guidelines they had been taught earlier in the workshop. Some of the skills the students learned included the "Dos: DO Listen actively, DO Echo back, DO Listen fairly, DO Be respectful, DO Mediate confidentially, AND THE Don'ts: DO NOT interrupt, DO NOT Ask who is at fault, DO NOT Blame, DO NOT Take sides, DO NOT Talk about other students, DO NOT Give advice, DO NOT Loose focus on main problem".
The simulated situations: one student confronts another student about an item he or she suspects the other student of stealing from him or her; a piece of gossip that one student is spreading about another student; a triage situation where someone tells a third person about something they suspect the other person has done, etc. are used to teach mediation skills by having the students role play and learn to help the participants come to a resolution.
"You can't tell them what they should do to resolve the situation," explains one of the high school mediators who is working with the seventh graders. "You have to let them arrive at the resolution."
"In the world of mediation, we call Monday 'Facebook Monday'," notes Ms. Drozd, "because on way too many Mondays we have to deal with conflicts that come about as the result of postings on Facebook over the weekend. We train the students in our Concil for Unity classes in conflict mediation, and conflicts often arise on Mondays due to a Facebook posting over the weekend. Even though the conflict may not have occurred in school, it's brought to school on Monday and needs to be resolved. As a result of this, we just address any of these possible situations right away on Monday in our Council for Unity class. These are great skills for our students to learn. They can change peoples' lives."