Peace Helpers Become Classroom Problem Solvers
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Peace Helpers Become Classroom Problem Solvers

>>Student: I want the book.>>Student: No, it’s mine.>>Student: No, it’s mine.>>Narrator: In this second grade
classroom, a tussle over a book, becomes a teachable moment.>>Emma: Okay, we’re
having a problem here. Would you like the
teacher to help you, or would you like to
go to the peace corner?>>Student: Peace corner.>>Narrator: With older students
teaching younger ones a lesson in conflict resolution.>>Alexus: Let’s say, if me
and Gabriella had a problem, then we’re going to go
inside the peace corner and express our feelings,
with a peace helper. And I think everybody knows
what a peace helper is.>>Narrator: Learning to be
a peace helper is just part of the unique curriculum at
PS 24, a K through five school in an underserved neighborhood in
Brooklyn, which has been transformed by building a culture of
social and emotional wellbeing.>>Sherley: I grew up
in the neighborhood, and I know that the
issues that, you know, the children are dealing
with are real issues. How can you learn when
you’re thinking about the problems
you’re having elsewhere? How can you learn when you’re
feeling horrible about yourself, how can you learn when you think
you don’t have any friends, or no one cares for you. I mean, we have to address all these
issues before they can even care about anything else. These are like, basic needs.>>So I want you to stand up if you
ever said something that wasn’t nice to someone, that hurt
their feelings, made–>>Christina: Our school was
called a Failing School, according to, No Child Left Behind. What we decided was that
the way to address it is not to kill the children by drilling
them on, you know, very flat kind of learning, you know, skill
and drill, but to really look at the whole child and give
them what you would find in, say, a private school. And part of that is, certainly,
social emotional learning.>>Sherley: Listen carefully. I want you to stand up if
someone ever put you down. If someone–>>Narrator: Social emotional
learning happens everywhere at PS 24, throughout the day. The Reading, Writing, Respect and
Resolution Curriculum features books with character building lessons. Conflict mediators, trained in the Resolving Conflict
Creatively Program, help their peers resolve disputes
on and off the playground.>>Student: Do you guys need
help solving this problem?>>Student: Yeah.>>Student: Okay, what could
you have done differently?>>Student: Say sorry?>>Student: You’re saying that, what
could you have done differently, you could have say sorry to him? Okay.>>Teacher: What is
going on with us today?>>Narrator: Once a week, during lunch
period, a small group of boys gathers to express their concerns
in discussion and art work.>>Student: In the club, you
can, like, just draw a picture, or write about what happened
during, in the problem. Is a lot more easier just to– you draw a picture of something
that happened, than having to–>>Teacher: To talk about.>>Student: Right, because
sometimes people are very nervous.>>Student: I don’t like when
people make fun of me, like, call me four eyes, and stuff,
because I wear glasses. I start getting mad, and
then I can’t control myself. So now my friends are
helping me more to not fight. They just tell me to go calm down. I’ll calm down, and
sometimes I told the teacher.>>Emma: Okay, what would
solve it for you, Julian?>>Narrator: Twice a
week, Emma Gonzalez, of the nonprofit Morningside Center
for Teaching Social Responsibility, comes to PS 24 to train teachers
and students in conflict resolution.>>Emma: I really wanted
a leadership model. I really wanted kids
teaching other kids. Kids listen to each other.>>Student: So you had a book first,
and a girl snatched it from you?>>Student: Yeah.>>Student: How do you feel?>>Student: I feel mad.>>Emma: Young people really
begin to think critically about their own actions,
and begin to have a place where they can talk
about feeling bad. If there was a fight at
home, if there was a problem, they didn’t have enough to eat,
where they could really, you know, feel free in a safe environment,
to express what they were feeling.>>Student: Do you need my help?>>Student: Yeah.>>Student: What happened?>>Emma: And it’s very easy
to train kids to be helpers. It’s very easy.>>Okay, so do you want to ask what
they’re doing, what did they want?>>Alexus: I like doing it,
because I like helping other kids, and it’s very fun for me,
because I get to have fun, and then be serious at the same time.>>When the peace helpers were
helping solve the conflict, what did you see the
peace helpers do?>>When I do stuff like the mini
lesson, I have to stay focused and especially when I’m working like,
first graders or kindergarteners–>>So anybody else want to try?>>I’m still learning, because if
I go into sixth grade next year, I need to learn how
to control my anger, because I have a serious
temper problem.>>Sherley: I want you to think
about what makes you really angry. Angry, that–>>Narrator: One period each week, Sherley Guerrero’s fourth graders
practice conflict resolution skills.>>Sherley: Okay, stop. Shamara punched him. So was she being strong,
mean or giving in? All: Mean.>>Student: Giving in.>>Sherley: But I thought it
was interesting that Shamara and Gabriella actually
looked at their choices, but they chose to be mean.>>My class did a lot of this
work last year, and by the end of the year, they were so confident,
it was great, it was just amazing, the work they were producing, the
way they presented themselves, the way they spoke to others.>>Does that happen in the real world? So let’s turn and talk
to your partner. What can happen because
she chose to be mean?>>Narrator: For Principal
Fuentes, PS 24’s modest investment in the programs has
paid big dividends.>>Christina: It’s actually
not that expensive, it’s a minimal investment
of resources. It’s really more the will to
do it, and the time to spend with the professional
development and thinking about how this really
just gets infused into what you’re doing normally.>>Sherley: Okay, so we’re going
to put our arms around each other.>>Christina: We have
definitely moved. We were considered a failing school, and now we have met our
adequate yearly progress.>>Sherley: Together we stand.>>All: Together we stand.>>Christina: So I think
that all those kinds of very objective measures
are showing that what we are doing is working.>>Sherley: Strong, together.>>All: Together.>>Narrator: For more
information about, What Works in Public
Education, go to

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2 thoughts on “Peace Helpers Become Classroom Problem Solvers

  1. This is an awesome means of both instructing the students with their immediate problems and building character for the mediators for a life time. Your students paraphrase very well. They're so calm and mature. Thank them for showing other students and the world how differences can easily be resolved.

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