Conflict is a normal and unavoidable part of our daily lives, and we have choices in how we deal with it. A group of sixteen Terrace students, in the 5th-8th grades, have almost completed the initial training to be mentors to fellow students. These students have dedicated personal time to become trained in conflict resolution strategies with counselor Ingrid Larsen & school board member Phil Kirby.
In peer mediation, students are given a chance to tell their side of the story. Ground rules are established to level the playing field. When each disputant has told his or her side of the story, solutions are discussed and agreed on. Mediators are trained facilitators of the process using active listening skills, paraphrasing, and eliciting feelings and solutions. When solutions are agreed on, a signed, written agreement is the end result.
Peer mediation, which includes conflict resolution skills, offers students options where they can learn to resolve differences peacefully. Although not a panacea, mediation is a valuable tool at schools. Each disputant walks away a winner. Mrs. Larsen expects the mediation process to be an effective strategy and increase instruction time by decreasing the frequency of classroom disruptions at the middle school.