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South joins North’s mediation program

By Ashan Singh
Published: December 2009

Over the past few weeks, the South administrative team implemented Newton North’s successful problem solving program Peer Mediation, which involves student to student dialogue rather than direct intervention from an administrative figure.

Headed by Wheeler Housemaster Josepha Blocker, the program selected four students to participate in the test run of this program: sophomores Jonah Reider and D’Zia Trowers-Bell, as well as juniors, Alex Gershanov and Olivia Larkin.

Four South students and Wheeler Housemaster Josepha Blocker, accompanied by ten Newton North students, attended training for a program hosted by North.

The program utilizes trained student mediators to assist students in settling disputes.

 
First, guidance counselors and Housemasters refer two students with a mutual conflict to a confidential meeting with the mediators. 

Following their referral and the students’ voluntary agreement, both students are asked to tell their sides of the story to the mediators with no interruption from the opposition. 

A student mediator then asks a series of open-ended questions allowing the two students to discuss the issue, to understand each other’s point of view, and to effectively solve the problem on their own.

“It’s not about giving advice, despite what many think, Blocker said. “It’s actually a lot of listening.

While it is yet to be determined how appealing the program will be to students, mediators Larkin and Reider both have high hopes.

“[Students] may not take it seriously at first, but it’s a voluntary process, and if people want their problems solved, then it should definitely be successful, Larkin said. 
Reider similarly attributes the potential success of the program to the long-term success at North.

“It’s working well at North, so I’m sure it will appeal to students at South, Reider said. “It allows students to work out their problems without teachers who make it seem like they’re going to get them in trouble.

This past summer, all four housemasters got together and discussed new strategies at attempting progressive discipline. When the concept of Peer Mediation came up, Blocker volunteered to head the program.

Blocker believes that the training was helpful to everyone. “Even though I’ve had some experience with mediation, it was great that I was able to attend the training so I can be on the same page as all the mediators and know where they’re coming from when they need me, she said.

Similarly, both Larkin and Reider agree that although the training was tedious, it was ultimately beneficial.

“It was long, but necessary, Larkin said. “We learned everything, even how to sit properly to make yourself really appear as though you are interested in what is being said.

Reider, who was recommended to the program by his guidance councilor, felt as though the instruction on questioning was most important.

“The most important thing we went over was asking open-ended question rather than just yes or no [questions], because you don’t want to put words in someone’s mouth but rather hear exactly their perspective, he said.

Now that training has been completed, the administration and guidance councilors have been notified of the program and are ready to start referring students to Peer Mediation. 
According to Blocker, following the upcoming December vacation, a notice will be sent to all advisories regarding peer mediation so that students are fully aware of the program.

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