August 30, 2012

Got A Problem? Need Some Help? Call a 5th Grader!

5th graders Jack and Sally show off
Friends' mediation process

Our elementary students were treated to some fine dramatics this week.  At the start of school the lead teachers presented short skits that highlighted Friends’ values of being Responsible, Safe, and Respectful. 

Jennifer and Beth demonstrated how to (and how not to!) put away playground equipment after using it.  Diane and Liz showed us the best and worst ways of telling a friend that her work needs improvement.  Laurie and Mandy acted out how to play a physical game together without hurting each other.  As they showed us the ‘wrong’ way of playing horse and Laurie shouted out, “Ow, that hurts!”, we were all caught by surprise at the natural ease with which Mandy quipped, “It’s just part of the game!” 

A few days later, our new 5th grade class presented some skits on how our students can use Friends’ mediation technique to help them solve problems and come to agreements out on the playground or in any area of their lives.  Our process asks kids to use agreements, to be truthful and respectful, to state their own needs, and to be creative in finding solutions that work for all.

Pause here for a second and think of the last time that you had a falling out with someone. A co-worker, your spouse, the less-than-helpful woman behind the counter at the DMV?  I have a 15 year old in my house so disagreements are never too few and far between.  How did you handle it?  How was the person with whom you were arguing?  Chances are that someone was not following the Friends’ mediation process. 

I know that when I come home after a long day, I am not always at my most patient when my kids are bickering. Using my teacher voice to tell them to knock it off is often far easier and more effective in the short term than getting to the root of the issue.  My short-term goal is peace and quiet.  But I notice that when I take three breaths and come back to the issue and let everyone be heard, figure out my own needs as well as theirs, and we all talk truthfully and respectfully, there is a far better peace. Not only is it a more genuine peace, but it’s a peace that lasts longer and has much greater long-term effect.
At Friends’, we teach all of our students, from three year old preschoolers to 5th graders, and grown-ups, to not only use their words, but to use this tried and trusted mediation process.  Our PE teacher, Kathy Sherwood, tells me of her daughter Jenny, a Friends' alumna student. Jenny is at grad school at Johns Hopkins studying public health. She works with middle and high school kids on issues of domestic violence and leans heavily on the mediation process she learned at Friends’ in her work.

Part of our mission is that Our students acquire a strong academic foundation while developing creative expression, social responsibility, and respect for diversity and the individual.” In the words of one of our founding parents, Larry Gold, “We’re teaching our kids to be good people.”

We train our 5th graders specifically so they can support our younger students in our mediation process. They’re on call on the playground at all times.  And if you need support, we might even let you take one of them to the DMV.

No comments: