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  2. Hello all! I am so sorry that I have not posted in nearly a month. It has been quite a crazy month filled with midterms, the inauguration, and the everyday stresses of life (I will try to post more regularly from now on). Because of my hectic situation, I have been needing to use some self care strategies more often than I usually do. Self care, for those who may not know, is the practice of taking care of oneself. This can mean anything from taking time to be alone to doing the exact opposite, and discussing your feelings with someone close to you who you trust. The phrase self care has become more popular in recent months due to the election of Donald Trump. Many people have experienced (or are still experiencing) grief in regards to this result. Some, due to this time of intense emotion, began taking care of their emotional state for the first time. It is important to remember, however, that your mental health should be a priority during all times of your life - not just the difficult ones. I, personally, practice self care through breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and volunteering. These activities literally reduce the physical effects of stress on the body by lowering blood pressure, taking some of the tension away from muscles, and switching off your sympathetic nervous system. If you have never heard of the phrase self care before, that is okay. Just know that it is never too late to start. If you have heard of self care, but have never tried it because of skepticism or lack of time, I strongly suggest you try a couple of techniques. They can (if you put your mind to it) make a world of a difference in daily stresses. The SPHS Mediators website actually has a list of several different stress relief/self care strategies that can be found here: https://sites.google.com/site/southpasmediators/resources/stress-relief-tactics I truly hope you take some time to relax this week. Find which technique works for you, and stick to it. Trust me. Thanks for your time! We'll talk soon!
  3. Hello all! My name is Will Hoadley-Brill and I am the founder and Team Manager of the SPHS Mediators (the peer mediation group at South Pasadena High School). Our program is only in its third year, but we are very well established and have an efficient and effective system for getting our name out there and funneling mediations quickly while ensuring quality. The SPHS Mediators are also dedicated to ensuring the mental well-being of the students on campus. This means that we supply students with resources on how to deal with stress, mental health issues, and the weight of being a high school student in these anxiety filled times. I have posted here to let you know that I am very experienced in the areas of mediation and mental health/wellness education. If you have any questions regarding any topic attached to either of the previously stated topics, please feel free to reach out. I would love to share my plethora of resources and I love talking to people who share one of my passions. Thanks so much! Hope to talk to you soon!
  4. A brief definition of implicit bias and its effects on society. http://kirwaninstitute.osu.edu/research/understanding-implicit-bias/
  5. "Resources, inspiration and expert advice for making a difference on and off campus" http://www.accreditedschoolsonline.org/resources/student-activism-on-campus/
  6. A list of seven agreements to keep in mind in order to have more productive and less divisive conversations. http://nonprofitwithballs.com/2016/11/7-agreements-for-productive-conversations-during-difficult-times/
  7. A 21-day self-care challenge for individuals and organizations in order to sustain the work they are doing. http://www.movetoendviolence.org/resources/21-day-challenge-self-care-for-sustainability-impact/
  8. A list of articles and resources for White People to understand the cause and implications of Trump's election on minority communities.
  9. "POC Online Classroom curates resources by, for, and about marginalized communities and social justice with the goals of education, personal empowerment, and political engagement." http://www.poconlineclassroom.com/
  10. This website offers free downloadable lessons and articles introducing middle and high school students to, "a more accurate, complex, and engaging understanding of United States history than is found in traditional textbooks and curricula." https://zinnedproject.org/
  11. This article traces the history of the construct of "White" people. https://medium.com/message/how-white-people-got-made-6eeb076ade42#.q3pg6qua4
  12. Each Friday, the SPHS Mediators holds a community building circle during our seventh period. Though it was originally intended to build community among mediators, it has now become a safe space for any SPHS student to come and participate. A community building circle is a restorative practice in which a trained facilitator leads a discussion that aims only to build connections between the people participating. The structure makes it so that everybody has en equal and fair opportunity to speak and can say as little or as much as they would like. There is no end goal, per se, and the format allows the conversation to evolve into whatever the participants want it to be. It has become a weekly practice at SPHS that the mediators look forward to. After several weeks of becoming familiar with it, the mediators began to invite other students to our community building circles. Initially, I didn’t know how this would go; I thought that my peers might not fully understand it and that they might write the mediators off as some kind of group therapy organization. I found, however, that the more non-mediator participants we involved, the more diverse our community building circles became. It offered a platform where students felt comfortable sharing about their lives in an environment that was guaranteed to be non judgemental and safe. Overtime, I have observed that this format for building bonds between students works better than anything else that I have seen in a school organization. We have tried icebreakers and different activities, but this is the only thing that has actively made the working environment for the mediators more personal and connected. I have seen the SPHS mediators grow from a group of passionate and talented students, to a family of passionate and talented students that are able to work together and get stuff done. One of peer mediation’s core purposes is to solve conflict while maintaining relationships. This practice of building relationships can actually prevent conflict and teach students how to communicate effectively and lead with empathy. I encourage all peer mediation programs to look at their schools and see in what way they are able to create strong relationships and bonds on their campuses, because it is truly the best way for peer mediation programs to make a permanent and lasting change on their student bodies. Thanks for reading! Talk to you all next week! --Will Hoadley-Brill
  13. This week we were visited by the president of the Southern California Mediation Association Education Foundation. The SCMA-EF gave us a grant earlier this year, and the president came by to see what we were doing with said funds. I took her to each of our four committees and she had questions for each. Eventually the conversation evolved from a question and answer session to a real dialogue about peer mediation and what it can do for a school’s climate. At SPHS, the mediators have taken peer mediation beyond solving disputes between peers. We use our mediation skills to create a better campus culture overall. For example, we hold events surrounding stress relief, communication, and mental health. The parallels between all of these topics is clear and should truly be implemented in every peer mediation program. I am not, however, attempting to gloat. The realization that I had when the president of the SCMA-EF came to visit us is that the SPHS Mediators are part of a community. When I am sitting in a meeting with my administrators and being questioned, it sometimes feels like I am alone and I am the only person who is trying to promote this “crazy” idea of peer mediation. It is when I am reminded that there are hundreds of schools around me that have the same kinds of programs that I feel empowered. This reminder is important for anyone who is part of a new or upcoming program: Though sometimes it may feel like you are the only person fighting for what is right, remember that there are people standing with. You may not see them, but they are there. In fact, they may even be within your own school; you just have to know how to seek them out. The SCMA-EF has a website (http://www.scmaedfoundation.org/) where peer mediation programs can find any and all resources that they need. They also have a youtube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxd1ebChKrlzdxably-yh7A/featured) where they just recently posted a video of the SPHS Mediators explaining what peer mediation means to us. I have attached the video here for your convenience. Thanks for reading! Talk to you next week!
  14. We have already followed up many times, and yet the process has not been catalyzed. It is truly frustrating!
  15. Thanks for sharing your experience with working with school administration and the tips you have learned. How easy is it to follow up with them on the resubmission?
  16. For many months I have been awaiting approval of a new peer mediators project. A four person committee worked for weeks collecting writing pieces from students and formatting them into something that was aesthetically appealing. They had put together a mental wellness Zine. A Zine is a smaller scale magazine that typically revolves around one theme each issue. The committee had decided on the theme of fear and publicized it to english classes, teachers around the campus, and students in all grades. They received many submissions (upwards of 20, I believe). It was due to be published in the last week of October. The second to last week in October, we gave a copy of the Zine to our school site administrators for approval. Their initial response was one that we were not expecting; they said that we had to remove several of the student written pieces due to mentions of violence or depression. The administrators at my school have approved of new peer mediators events in the past (such as an assembly surrounding mental illnesses and depression) so the objection took me slightly by surprise. Regardless, the Zine committee diligently and quickly fixed the issues that had been brought to their attention and resubmitted it for approval two weeks later. That was in mid November. It is now December 10 and we have yet to hear back from them. I know that they are not in opposition to our program, in fact they have publicly supported our actions in the past, so it must be sheer apathy. Please do not mistake me for a whining student. I completely understand that the job of an administrator is difficult and time consuming. I am also not saying that this problem is isolated to my school. In fact, I have hear from peer mediation programs around my area that administrators do not dislike their programs but also don’t necessarily show any support; they are apathetic. The reason I tell you this story is as a cautionary tale. If you are a start up peer mediation program, or even a well established one, administrative buy in will help you in the long run. Make sure that your principal knows what activities you are doing, how your program works, how to refer students to a peer mediation, and most importantly that you appreciate everything that they do for your school. If you have their support, future steps and new projects will be far easier to perform. I hope to post the Zine on this blog sometime so that the committee’s hard work does not go to waste. Thanks for reading! Talk to you all next week! -- Will Hoadley-Brill
  17. I have recently been trying to practice what I preach. I am often very good at telling people what to do, but not always good at doing it myself. So, this week I decided to take my own advice and attempt to carry an attitude of gratitude past the holiday of Thanksgiving. The SPHS Mediators set up a living tree in our library lobby (pictured below). We figured that it would be pretty boring just to have a tree with our logo on it, so we got the rest of our student body involved. We set up a table with several blank cardstock tags and asked students to write one thing that they were thankful for on the tag. We did get our fair share of “Wrong holiday” and “What’s the point of this?” but when these students listened to my reasoning (explained in the previous post) the idea of expanding gratitude past Thanksgiving started sounding pretty cool. It was also interesting to see the difficulty that some students had in thinking of something that they were grateful for. Many students told me that they had no idea what they were grateful for and that they could, therefore, not put something on the tree. Of course, they had SOMETHING to be grateful for, they had just never been taught how to identify it. For these students, a perspective shift needs to occur. We must stop solely focusing on what the next step is, or when the next iPhone is coming out. We must instead learn how to appreciate the now and what we already have. We must instead learn to live in the moment. Next week, we will be asking students to write something that they love. I’ll keep you posted. Thanks for reading! Talk to you all next week! Love ya! -- Will Hoadley-Brill
  18. Thanks for sharing the benefits of mindfulness and gratitude, Will - so helpful for self care as mediators!
  19. As we say goodbye to Thanksgiving, it is important to remember that the mindset of gratitude should not leave with the holiday. Finding something that you are grateful for everyday does more than just make you seem like a nice person. In fact, many mindfulness experts theorize that gratitude can completely shift a person’s mindset. We are taught to focus on improvements: What did I do wrong? Why did that happen? How can I make it better? We rarely focus on what we do not need to improve and what we are already great at. This is not to say that progress is unnecessary, but that the appreciation for the good things in life is. I have been to Cambodia twice now. On these trips I have seen one of the poorest countries in our world. The people there live in literal huts with no electricity, air conditioning, internet, or sufficient nutrition. And both times that I have returned to the US, I felt a sense of guilt. That I do have electricity and internet. That I am able to have three nutritious meals per day. Of course, that is intensely dramatic and the problems that Americans have are equally as valid as problems that Cambodians have; they are just different. We simply have a higher standard of living and, therefore, we are able to focus on issues that are more complex than survival. The most important concept that I took away from these trips is to be grateful for what I have and give what I can. This is a concept that I have observed very little in our American society. However, its potential is revolutionary. I encourage you all to try a little challenge: for 21 days, write down three things you are grateful for, one positive experience you had that day, complete at least one random act of kindness each day, exercise each day, and meditate each day. I have done this challenge and I saw an unbelievable shift in the way that I view my world. If you would like a template to complete this challenge, I created one a year ago for my mediators. Here it is: https://docs.google.com/document/d/18zR7sAmxfk5OOFVtGxXzaclBPfUlm4z35Iy4oKgKefw/edit?usp=sharing If you try this challenge, please let me know how it goes. I want to see if it worked as well on you as it did on me. Thanks for reading! Talk to you all next week! Love ya! -- Will Hoadley-Brill
  20. Thanks for sharing your experiences, John. I know many teachers and students are extremely stressed about this, and it is important for teachers to have the best resources on how to support their students without further scaring them. We've found this article helpful: http://neatoday.org/2016/11/09/talking-to-students-about-election/. There are going to be many challenging discussions ahead to get people to understand one another's perspectives. I'm glad you were able to move to better understanding. Please continue to let us know how things go.
  21. Chiming in a bit late on this topic, but that's not a bad thing. First, time to settle down and evaluate is always wise, but also, it's been interesting to see the shift in attitudes. It hasn't been positive, not at any point, but it has been....improving? The day after was stressful. I had to visit the local HS my middle school feeds into and then head back to my campus. At the HS, there was more anger than there was at my MS; there I saw fear and trepidation. But really, most of the animosity and fear seemed to stem from the teachers and not the students. In some cases, teachers were even instilling their own fears into students who were just uncertain. I worked hard to maintain an attitude of positivity. I kept telling people that what we saw the night prior was a reminder of how much work we still have to do as a country, about how far we are from where we need to be. I also pointed out that, having lived and worked in "The Rust Belt", that I knew how poor that area had become and how people in those areas aren't just a group of homophobic, or racist or anything of that sort of individuals, but that they felt neither major party was representing them and that no one was listening. I stated that people in that area felt that their voices weren't being heard and that night they made their voices heard, and we should hear their pain, and listen so we can begin the healing process. Sadly, that somehow translated to me being dubbed a "Trump Supporter" by several teachers. A reminder that some people's anger blocks them from having productive conversations; people weren't ready for that at the time, they needed to grieve. Since then, several teachers and I have discussed how they had mislabeled me and how unjust it was, but also how I had not fully recognized their pain.
  22. I'm also glad you have students and teachers who are there to support you and your fellow students. What are some of the most effective things that your teachers and other students do for you that help in this situation?
  23. Thanks for sharing SJ. I'm so glad you have a community of support.
  24. I feel extremely lucky to be at my current school. All of the teachers are very understanding about the emotional health of all of the students. The overall climate of the school is in a depressed state. I had a GSA meeting on Wednesday, the day after the election, and that was not only emotional but also healing. We were all sobbing together and talking about our immense fear for discrimination and the lives of LGBTQ people in other states. But we also talked about what we were grateful for and how everyone was going to support each other. I personally haven't gotten through a class without crying and having to leave; however, I am able to go to a multitude of teachers to help calm me down. All of the minority communities at my school feel a great sense of community.
  25. Glad your campus is continuing to feel like a safe place. Please update everyone with how the next GSA meeting goes. Look forward to hearing how they all experience it as well.
  26. Our campus is as accepting as ever, but a lot of people are nervous after the election. At the next GSA meeting I plan to discuss how everyone feels about it and try assuage some fears, but in all honesty I'm pretty nervous myself. I don't think it'll affect the campus, but life outside of school might not be so unaffected.
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