Pathways to Peace
Cape Mediation’s Youth Program Coordinator, Maura Smith Stein, talks about
Cape Mediation’s Youth Conflict Resolution Programs.
(This article was first published in Cape Mediation’s monthly Newsletter, Mediator’s Break, October 1, 2022.)
Can you tell us about Cape Mediation’s Youth Conflict Resolution program? How did you choose the name “Pathways to Peace” for youth training?
“Pathways to Peace” is our youth training/workshop. It can be either a 1-day training like the one we will do with the Nauset Regional High School students at the Human Rights Academy (HRA) event in October or a more in-depth training like the one we will do at the Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School which is 6-weeks long starting in January 2023. The name “Pathways to Peace” “seemed right” as you put it because it includes all the different tools and Conflict Resolution practices we use as pathways to peace. This includes education, training, skill-building, peer mediation, conflict coaching, listening circles, and restorative practices. It is intentionally a broad term to include all these tools and practices. Programming under the title will depend on identified need, the learner, time, and resources. The training is customized to every person(s), youth, student, school or agency served.
Can you tell us more about the “Pathways to Peace” Youth Program?
The training gives youth some basic information about Conflict Resolution. What is conflict, what is conflict resolution, how do people resolve conflict, what skills are needed to understand conflict, how to resolve problems in a peaceful way. It includes what skills are needed to prevent conflict even before it starts and after conflict starts. Its emphasis on deescalating a situation so students can resolve an issue. The training provides skill-building so that everyone feels heard, respected, and valued. That is the primary goal. We do this by focusing on skills; like the lost art of listening, asking open-ended questions and empathy building. We also explore biases by interactive learning opportunities like listening skills and icebreakers that are fun but meaningful. Most of what we do is student-driven and evaluated by the students themselves!
Is this program different from a traditional Youth Peer Mediation Program?
Yes, this is a training on Conflict Resolution skill-building at the most fundamental but important levels. This is not a process but a training that gives opportunities to dive deep into: listening, question asking and empathy building. The idea is if we listened better, asked open-ended questions, and put ourselves into other people’s shoes we can better understand others and resolve conflict peacefully. This is nothing new, but do we take the time to teach and reach?
How is Peer Mediation like community meditation? How is it different?
Peer mediation is very much like community mediation in the process and essential components like confidentiality and neutrality.
What Conflict Resolution tools do you use in Cape Mediation’s Youth Conflict Resolution Program?
The tools we will use to resolve peer issues in our Youth Conflict Resolution Program include peer mediation process, but we also use conflict coaching and listening circles. The tools we use depend on the need. Does the problem require a mediation process, conflict coaching or a listening circle? What approach is used will depend on the need and best practice. For example, if only one student comes in with a conflict, we could offer conflict coaching. If the roblem involves several students, we could do a listening circle with a student-driven restorative plan.
How can our readers become more involved with the program?
Support Youth Conflict Resolution programs and training by advocating for schools and other agencies that serve youth to learn more about Conflict Resolution programming and restorative practices as an alternative to standard punitive policies and a disciplinary mindsets. Read about the benefits of Restorative Juvenile Justices’ practices and principles. An informative book that was recently recommended to me by a school administrator was, Hacking School Discipline: 9 Ways to Create a Culture of Empathy and Responsibility Using Restorative Justice, by Brad Weinstein and Nathan Maynard. I would say, be open to alternatives to addressing behavior issues by understanding that behaviors are a young person’s way of sending a message and the message is sometimes do you see me, do you care?
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