Michele Whaley, Social Worker at James A. Garfield School 31, will start a peer mediation program in late October. The program will train 6th, 7th and 8th grade students to be peer mediators who can help younger students with conflicts resolve their differences. It’s work she has done for three years. She believes peer mediation is a powerful tool used in creating a peaceful school climate.
Most of the conflicts the peer mediators help younger students with involve disagreements that come up at recess—things like not sharing, teasing and cutting in line. Those actions may sound innocent, but “what starts as playing around or teasing can get out of hand,” said Whaley.
Though they are trained with scripts, the peer mediators often go above and beyond and say things to students that adults can’t or in ways an adult wouldn’t. One student Whaley observed mediating a conflict simply asked a younger student, “Is this really that big a deal?”, and that diffused the situation.
And some students trained as mediators have changed their own behavior.
“It helped me to take a different perspective of what I should and shouldn’t do around little kids,” said 8th grade student Omesha B.
These mediators speak from their experience, and the younger students really listen.
“Peer mediation along with other interventions does keep small disagreements from escalating into bullying,” Whaley said.
Peer mediation is another great way Indianapolis Public Schools is stopping bullying before it starts and training students to be creative problem solvers who are responsible for each other!