How do YOU want to solve this?/Annual Book Swap - Mid-Pacific Institute

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How do YOU want to solve this?/Annual Book Swap

Posted on May 4, 2017

by Ms. Abe on May 4, 2017

I was inside the CE House the other day, and the preschoolers were playing outside. I overheard them through the window negotiate what they wanted with what their friends wanted. Isn't that the human experience, no matter what age we are? We have to reconcile our wants with the wants of those around us.

We are going through Peer Mediation training with the third and fourth graders right now. This is a national Peer Mediation program that Shirley Rivera brought to Epiphany School over twenty years ago. One activity is role playing (1) denial ("No, nothing's wrong") vs. (2) aggressive confrontation (verbal or physical) vs. (3) problem solving. I held up the three scripts: problem solving was by far the longest. Problem solving takes time. However, if people use denial or aggressive confrontation, they will likely not remain friends.

Once two girls shared with me that they had a big problem. I listened (a very important skill we practice in Mediation training) to each of them talk at length about what had happened and how they were feeling about it (another Mediation principle - disputants talk about their feelings as well as what happened). Each shares enough to get it all out, which helps them come to a place where they aren't as hurt or angry in order to be ready to solve problems.

I reflected their feelings: "It sounds like you have felt hurt, jealous, angry, and frustrated." (Mediators reflect the disputants' feelings with compassion. In the photo above, the students are taking turns reading aloud scenarios and reflecting each other's feelings.) Both girls nodded their heads vigorously.

I then asked, "What ideas do you have to solve this?" (Disputants come up with their own solutions.) Because this problem had gone on since the beginning of the year and many incidents had happened between them, I asked the girls, "What do you think the root of the problem is?"

And I wanted to share this with you (with their permission) because I was astounded at what solutions they came up with themselves:

(1) If there is a misunderstanding, where you didn't mean to hurt the other person, we will try to:
* talk to each other as soon as possible when it happens (don't let it fester), and not walk away
* ask the person, "Are you mad at me?" to clarify.
* If the person IS angry, the person should be honest about what she's mad about: "I felt hurt when you whispered..." and then maybe things can be explained.
* not use hurtful words, but explain WHY you felt angry
(2) When apologizing to the other, ask "Do you still need time? You can tell me later," understanding that the other person might still be mad and need more time.
(3) Regarding playing with different friends:
* Lunch: sit all together
* Recess: Playing separately is ok
(4) Don't bring other friends into the situation. Ask other friends not to take sides. If they ask, say something like, "I'm just not having a good day."
Isn't that amazing? We usually don't ask disputants to offer more than one solution, but the girls came up with all of these, and their situation was complex. I'm not sure if they will be able to really remember all of these all the time, but it is impressive that they were able to even verbalize them.
I then iterated what one girl said earlier: it is inevitable that even good friends, being human, hit bumps in the road. However, with these strategies in place, they will be able to get through them. Also, it will take time for the girls to regain each other's trust and have their emotions heal. But what a great first step!
Because the girls in this particular situation were so upset and the situation had gone on for a while and was complex, I did the mediation, but usually we have fourth and fifth-grade students run the mediations.
Boy, if all adults could problem-solve like these two upper elementary girls, imagine how our world would be...

Dear Families,

Our annual Book Swap starts next week Monday, May 15, through the end of school. Students will have an opportunity to swap their gently-used books during their Character Education class.

If students bring a book, they can swap it and take home a "new" book! They can bring in just one book or as many books as they wish. At first, children who bring more than five books will be able to take home only five books, but if they wish to return towards the end of the book swap, they can take home as many as they brought in.

Or if your child loves all his books at home and can't find one he wants to swap, it's perfectly fine not to participate.

Any books preschool level through 5th grade would be appropriate.

Last year the children loved browsing through all the books and being able to choose their very own book to take home. This Book Swap idea first came up as an Earth Day activity. Let's put Reduce-Reuse-Recycle into action!


Lori Abe