I hear it often: the world is going you-know-where in a handbasket. The youth of this country are apathetic, uninvolved. Well folks, some are. But I had a chance to spend the day with several fairly young people who care about making a difference.
I train peer mediators in an elementary school. The school counselor and I work together to select, train, and supervise these fifth and sixth graders. The youngest may be 10, the oldest have only just turned 12, but these kids already have their heads on straight.
The applications for mediators this year were excellent quality. The kids met the deadline, filled out the papers correctly, and wrote very heart-felt pieces on why they wanted to become peer mediators. We had a great pool of boys and girls from which to choose.
Our returning mediators from last year helped us run the training. They led several activities, put on a skit, and demonstrated procedures for the newcomers. Some of these kids are very quiet in class; they surprised and impressed me with their ability to stand up and lead the group.
They paid attention, took very few breaks, and asked a lot of thoughtful questions. They deciphered a new set of vocabulary (how many 11-year-olds know the meaning of “de-escalate”, after all?) and developed an understanding of peer mediation and their role in the process. When it was all over, they helped us clean up the room we’d borrowed and headed back to school — to pick up their homework. Yes, after all was said and done, they had to make up the work they missed in class today.
We’ll meet with them tomorrow morning to tie up loose ends, practice a few mock mediations, and get them set up with their new partners. I’m excited about this group of kids. They are sincere in their wishes to solve conflicts. They really, really want to make a difference. They are quiet leaders: role models in their everyday actions, the type of student that the other kids like and respect and enjoy.
If these are the leaders of tomorrow, our world will be in good hands.