When people work, study or spend a lot of time together, some level of disagreement is inevitable. A school is a place where people grow and develop so it’s important that it can provide skills to handle this challenge for the young people as well as the professionals inside its walls.
Mediation is a tool for resolving conflict and reaching mutual agreement between parties. It’s a flexible process that can be used to settle disputes and enhance communication in a range of situations and can also be a beneficial alternative to traditional behaviour management techniques used in schools.
In Mexico City and in Madrid, ORT schools have established mediation programmes between students as well as within the teaching and administrative staff of the schools. Mediation is seen as a tool for dialogue and interpersonal encounters that is contributing not only to the reduction of discipline problems but also to the improvement of a diversity of relationships in school.
What’s more, these initiatives are an opportunity for young people to develop empathy and skills in critical analysis, emotional intelligence and advanced communication.
In Mexico City, CIM-ORT have been applying their mediation programme for more than a decade. Mediation is a process used throughout the school and takes place voluntarily, confidentially and independently of the school system.
The general objectives of their mediation programme are:
- to model the strategies and skills of conflict mediation,
- to foster a positive social environment among participants and an enriching interpersonal encounter, and
- to prevent school clashes through constructive conflict resolution
The parties in conflict sit down in a safe space, alongside the mediator or neutral third party for a series of private conversations. The conclusions reached through the process are written down in an informal contract, which is signed by the parties involved. The mediator will follow up after a brief period of time, to confirm that what was written down in the agreement has been done. Otherwise, another session is required to complement the process.
Peer mediation has repeatedly proven itself in reducing conflict in schools and CIM-ORT have experienced great success with this initiative over the past few years. ‘’Through mediation, we have managed to get the parties in conflict to carry out an adequate communication, resolve their differences and misunderstandings and achieve a harmonious and constructive coexistence in school.”
At CIM-ORT, mediation has been seen to raise:
- Self esteem
- Effective management of emotions
- Critical and creative thinking
- Sensitivity to help more vulnerable people
- A healthy and pleasant environment
The ‘I Help You’ mediation project at the Ibn Gabirol School in Madrid is an elementary school project developing students’ social conscience. The program aims to resolve conflicts brought to the mediation programme as well as those which arise in outside, everyday situations also.
The mediation team consisting of 15 children from 3rd to 6th grade in Ibn Gabirol have learned a specific technique to achieve results without adult intervention.
5 Steps of Mediation
- Mediators introduce themselves and the students in conflict explain the problem
- Mediators paraphrase what they have heard to make sure they have understood both sides well
- Mediators ask those involved in the problem to propose solutions
- Mediators suggest the solution they consider most convenient for both parties.
- An agreement is signed between those who had the conflict and the parties are encouraged to share a positive impression with the group so that everybody leaves happy and on good terms.
Ibn Gabirol emphasises that whilst the future may present greater and more complex problems for the students, they will be better placed to face them as adults who will have learned the value of reflection, the importance of being part of the solution and of honouring their decisions and commitments.
‘’Knowing how to deal with a conflict amongst students, or with colleagues, or between students and colleagues is one of the clearest benefits that Mediation can provide to teaching professionals.’’
In CIM-ORT the feeling is that Mediation works through building genuine relationships and provides a different feeling of community in comparison to traditional behaviour management systems in school.
If you would like to discuss Mediation initiatives for your school, please be in touch with Natasha Shaw at email@example.com