[Student Essay] PeaceMakers: Positive synergy created by each other

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[Student Essay] PeaceMakers: Positive synergy created by each other

Jimin Kim (Grade 11, Branksome Hall Asia) on behalf of BHA PeaceMakers
We often refer to the school as a miniature society. A school is a place where we first step out of the fence of family and meet new people, new environments, and new worlds. We encounter valuable experiences at school; exploring in-depth knowledge, making precious relationships that money cannot buy, and solidifying social and self-identity. But at the same time, school is also the place we first experience failure, frustration, and agony. This is not limited to only academic difficulties but also problems arising from human relationships such as friends and teachers. In this ‘small society’, which is full of people who are completely different from what we have known, we often suffer, wander, and get lost. People often say that “children grow up while fighting’’, but peer conflict inside the school can grow into unbearable problems for immature teenagers who are at the crossroad between children and adults. About 28% of stress that teenagers feel is rooted in social relations, and the number of students who experience depression from peer pressure is increasing every year. As such, school, which is supposed to be a space for learning and interaction, can quickly turn into a space full of burdens.
Our school currently has counselors in residences, junior school, middle school, and senior school. All of them are professional and skilled counselors, and many students resolve their worries through voluntary counseling sessions. However, there are also some students who feel uncomfortable asking for help from counselors who they barely know, and clear limitations exist in alleviating every conflict within the school by themselves. This is where the idea of the Peacemakers arose from. The purpose of the club is simple: make the school a more comfortable and peaceful place for students. Peacemakers’ main goal is to “focus on equality of relations between students by promoting RP to build a more peaceful and safer school”. To this end, we promote a new problem-solving method, restorative practice (RP). RP is a strategy that aims to solve a problem by looking at the situation from the perspective of everyone involved in a conflict situation, leading the communication to find a common agreement without dividing the perpetrators and victims. All the peacemakers in the club learn about RP in detail, obtaining various skills and responsibilities as mediators when faced with actual conflicts.
This semester, I took on the role of a training leader to teach new peacemakers about RP. As it was the first time that I was assigned such a crucial role, the fact of teaching the same students, though they are younger than me, was pressuring. A sense of responsibility also arose from the thought that if education does not proceed properly, there might be problems during actual consultations. However, unlike the anxiety that I felt, the first session led to an unexpected result. The active exchange of opinions and thoughts with various friends with different perspectives made me think about the core of the peacemakers that I had forgotten, and I could learn a lot from the discussions. The first class ended with such a lively and meaningful time, overshadowing the apprehension that it would just be a simple theory-oriented class. This atmosphere of the class lasted until the last day. Although the class was conducted online due to the severe COVID-19 infections around the school community, I could feel my passion blooming as I saw students eagerly participating in the session without hesitation.
The thing that I want to say through this experience is that the role of the peacemakers is not about merely listening to students' concerns unilaterally and proposing solutions, but it is to communicate, share perceptions, and move toward the ideal together. The basis of RP is not to provide the answer. It is rather to guide the conversation so that no one is left out and encourage each person to look back on their actions to find the solution they truly want. This process has a positive effect not only on those involved in the situation but also on us acting as mediators as well. It is beyond a sense of pride and accomplishment, but a lesson and spiritual learning from watching peers acknowledge one's mistakes and achieve harmony through understanding each person's position. Indeed, not all conflict situations have ended with good results and we are still immature peacemakers who have not yet learned or experienced enough, but even this progress helps everyone to grow one step further.
‘Peacemakers’ has a more ultimate and comprehensive meaning than the literal meaning of peacemakers. What we do is not unilaterally suggest solutions or force specific actions. It's just to help everyone agree and be satisfied with the situation, guiding toward a win-win solution. When we feel the positive synergy that we create together, that is when the true ‘peacemaking’ is achieved.
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