New Rochelle Students Learn Peer Mediation

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. – Ward Elementary School students are currently using skills learned in a recent  refresher course from Tara Fishler, a conflict resolution specialist, during one of her monthly visits to help students and staff prevent conflicts from escalating in the school community.

Fishler, whose company is Customized Training Solutions, showed the students how they can look deeper into a conflict rather than just looking at the surface.

Students first act as mediators assisting their peers in conflict, and then look at how conflicts can be solved from the outside looking in.

“We create a fishbowl,” Fishler said.

Fishler's method gives mediators and students a different perspective about how to look at problems.

Children are trained — exactly as adult mediators are — to listen to both sides in a conflict and help those involved decide how they want to come to a resolution.

Students have been instructed by Fishler, who has counseled students in the program for the past two years, to go to one of their fellow third-, fourth - and fifth-grade students in blue vests, who are trained peer mediators, if they have a problem on the school playground.

Peer mediation complements the districtwide and nationally recognized anti-bullying program Olweus. Student mediators do not handle true bullying situations among students. School staff members serve as an adult peer mediation team. They are always on hand to assist the student mediators, including in situations the students are not meant to handle.

Both the Olweus and peer mediation programs are part of Ward’s culture of teaching understanding, respect and acceptance, Fishler said.

Fishler has also been working with Albert Leonard Middle School students in New Rochelle.

She acknowledges that no program can necessarily prevent students with neurological impairments from causing harm, but says that it makes the conditions for such situations less likely.

Nelsie Febles, Ward Elementary School social worker and peer mediation program coordinator, says students have progressed significantly since working with Fishler.

“They get a lot from it,” Febles said.

Fishler will next visit the peer mediators June 11 for another course and a celebration to mark the end of the workshops.

The adult mediation team includes Ward Elementary School social worker Nelsie Febles, social worker Judy Shulman, kindergarten teacher Angela D’Ambrosio, psychologist Melissa Swift, psychologist Sheryl Senna, fifth-grade teacher Cidalia Vincitore, and psychology interns Nancy  Hollander and Emma Villaverde.

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