Peer mediation offers students way to deal with angry feelingsProcess lets kids work out their issues together
WORTHINGTON — Worthington Middle School Principal Clete Lipetzky keeps a student’s letter on his desk. “Thanks to you I finally got a way to calm my anger down,” he reads. “You really helped me and so did the peer mediators. I learned to not bottle up anger but to express and let go,” he finishes, adding, “I look at it as the progress we’ve made, you know, one win for the good guys.”
By: Laura Grevas, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Worthington Middle School Principal Clete Lipetzky keeps a student’s letter on his desk.
“Thanks to you I finally got a way to calm my anger down,” he reads. “You really helped me and so did the peer mediators. I learned to not bottle up anger but to express and let go,” he finishes, adding, “I look at it as the progress we’ve made, you know, one win for the good guys.”
The Peer Mediation program, in its 14th year, is one of several methods administrators in District 518 are using to reduce bullying at the elementary and middle school.
In October, 25 mediators (eighth-graders at WMS, fifth- and sixth-graders at St. Mary’s School and fifth-graders at Prairie Elementary) were trained to deal with conflicts among their peers.
But Rich Besel, a middle school teacher who helps train and supervise peer mediators, said the program doesn’t aim to turn students into disciplinarians.
“We try to train them to be good listeners. We always have this feeling that we like to take control and tell someone what to do, but that’s more of a teacher mode. In mediation we try to listen for feelings. That’s really important because under a layer of reasons why kids are acting how they are is a layer of what’s happened to them.
“Then after everything is out on the table then (mediators) piece together: ‘What do you need to happen in order to make this situation better?’ ‘What can you both do so this doesn’t happen again?’ They try to get the kids in conflict to move forward, (asking) ‘What’s going to happen tomorrow for you guys?’” he said.
“A lot of the time they’ll just say ‘Oh, we’ll just forget about it, and we’ll avoid each other,’ but we have to go into it more deeply,” explained middle school peer mediator Carolyn Lovan, “We’ll say ‘Well, what if there’s a time when you guys confront each other and you guys have to sit by each other in class or at a lyceum?’”
When it comes to helping the disputants develop a plan for the future, Besel said a follow up meeting after a week’s time is key. “They can go back to (mediation) or go to a principal if a solution has not been met,” he said.
Sixth graders Dulce Chacon and Alejandra Pinales found clarity at their follow up mediation after a conflict earlier this year.
“She fell and felt embarrassed that I was laughing at her and there was rumors around about us. People think that I was talking about her behind her back,” recounted Chacon.
Counselor Tracy Johnson contacted Pinales, who agreed to a peer mediation. The girls were asked to commit to mediation guidelines: no interrupting, put downs or threats. After sharing feelings, they needed to agree on a solution.
“At first we said not to talk to each other, but when we had our (second) peer mediation we started talking to each other so we changed our agreement,” Pinales said.
“If we had a problem we had to say it to each other and not start rumors,” added Chacon.
Today, the girls are a peer mediation success story. They say they get along, even “joke around sometimes,” and both would advocate for the program.
“We prefer peer mediation instead of a counselor because the counselor listens to you and just gives you advice and they don’t let you talk to the person,” Chacon said. “But when it comes to peer mediation they let you talk to the person and see how you feel and how the person feels.”