Conflicts in high school can come in many forms.
It could be an argument among friends, name calling, or jealousy. It could be fighting, or threats, or bullying. Maybe it’s just a simple misunderstanding. Whatever the problem, a group of students who are trained in mediation are available at Franklin County Tech to help resolve conflicts among their peers.
Peer mediation is a private, nonjudgmental resolution technique that brings the students with disputes together to solve the problem. The fact that students are guided through the process by another student is what makes the intervention so effective.
“Kids feel better talking to someone their own age,” said Erica Farnham, a freshman mediator. “If you’re mediating with kids your own age, they know what you’ve gone through.”
Added Zaviere Washington, a senior mediator, “Students feel more trusting toward other students. They feel more understood.”
The peer mediators are advised by special education teacher Lynne Paju and school psychologist Timothy Murphy. To prepare to become peer mediators, Paju said the students underwent daylong training to hone their skills in active listening, conflict resolution techniques, and communication, as well as engaging in role playing.
“You have to be a good listener and observer,” Paju said. “You have to be nonjudgmental.”
Students who have a conflict and feel mediation is a way to resolve the problem, can contact a peer mediator, Paju or Murphy, another teacher, or through Dean of Students Earl McGraw.
Washington said he wanted to become a peer mediator because he noticed that many conflicts around the school can be resolved before they grow out of proportion.
“I’ve noticed throughout my high school career that there is a lot of drama that goes on,” he said. “It causes people to take sides, but to be able to keep that down from the get-go would make the high school experience more enjoyable. Nobody likes to deal with the drama.”
Farnham said she knows what it’s like to get into arguments with friends and to be picked on. She became a peer mediator to help other students work through those and other issues.
“I want to be there to help my peers so they’re not just wishing they had someone to talk to,” Farnham said.
Brandon Boudah, a junior peer mediator, said mediators don’t tell other students what to do, but help with finding a balanced solution.
“We help students make the best decisions for themselves,” he said.
Freshman Thalia Garcia wanted to become a peer mediator because she knows other students who have experienced conflicts and thought she could help them work through issues with someone they trust.
“They know they have somebody they can come to who will understand and keep it private,” she said.
Aubrey Klerowski, a junior mediator, urged students who need conflict resolution to seek her or other peer mediators out. She said talking through and resolving difficult problems will be a skill students will take with them beyond high school.
“It’s up to kids to sort out our own problems because that’s what we’re going to have to do in life,” Klerowski said.
Students who want to become peer mediators, should contact Ms. Paju or Mr. Murphy.