In conversations I’ve had with families and students that have been at Trillium for a long time one of the things they cite as missing is the presence of mediations in the school. I’ve heard countless stories of the power of seeing a student engage in mediation, or a student coming home proud that they are a certified mediator. This is something we have believed and continue to believe in deeply at Trillium. I’d like to take a moment today to talk to you about how mediation shows up currently at Trillium, some changes we’ve made this year, and changes we hope to make in the future. When I began at Trillium, veteran teachers talked about the power of mediation, but new teachers, while supportive of the process, also weren’t sure how the process worked. This, unfortunately, has been part of the Trillium experience over the past few years. Teachers who have been here for a while hold and carry important parts of the past, but there has not been intentional training in what a mediation is or how and when to utilize them over the past few years. We are working on changing that.
For several years we have had a single “mediation mat” that has lived in the classroom of Lauren Kristensen. The mat is a thing of beauty; clearly outlining the steps a student needs to walk through to engage in mediation. However, we’ve only had one, not everyone knows where it lives and not everyone has known how and when to use it. We spoke about mediations at the beginning of this school year, Sarah Cramer, our Assistant Director is a highly skilled and trained mediator and does the majority of our mediations with students. We are working, however, on bringing them back into the class more fully. A group of 4-5 students recently designed new mediation mats and purchased 5 new ones to live in K-1, 2-3 and 4-5 classrooms as well as in both the Director and Assistant Director’s offices. Next year we will begin the year by training older lower school students in mediations and having them train younger ones.
Mediations at the upper grade levels look a bit different but are just as important. For years the high school has had a mediation process though, like the lower school, it was held by veteran teachers and not made formal policy and a part of new teacher training. This year we are changing that. Recently we all began using the same mediation process and protocols with all upper school students whether facilitated by a staff member or by a fellow student.
The power of this process is truly astounding. Seeing students walk through very difficult situations, listen to each and come to sustainable resolutions is one of the most amazing things that happen at our school, and it happens every day throughout the school.
Furthermore, it doesn’t stop with students. We use the same mediation process with our staff that we use with our upper school students. We believe in talking through our problems and coming to a mutual agreement. I believe that our students pick up on staff dynamics quickly, regardless of their age, and are able to see how and when we are able to work through our problems or if we let them fester into something larger. We believe in walking the talk and do our best to live that every day.
The process of building a sustainable mediation program mirrors the process of rebuilding Trillium that we are going through. It involves a). Identifying powerful practices that have existed for years at the school b). Recognizing the nuances of those practices and taking measures to institutionalize them c). Training new community members (teachers, students and parents) about those practices and ensuring that they live on beyond specific individuals. This is a time consuming process, but I believe it is the way to ensure we have a strong school not just now but for years to come. It gets better every day. Every day we get closer to restoring the ideals that Trillium was founded upon and marry them with sustainable systems to ensure they are there for a long time.