Second-graders Settle Peer Problems

Playground Peacemakers

December 03, 1991|By Angela Gambill | Angela Gambill,Staff writer

Harsh words over a ballgame quickly degenerate into pushing, then hitting. On the playground of Marley Elementary School, a small girl wearing a red armband rushes over.

Within a few minutes, the second-graders shake hands and return amicably to their game.

In this practice scenario, 7-year-old Amanda Meade learns how to solve problems by talking them out, how to quell tempers long enough to resolve disagreements.

As a CRT, or volunteer member of the Conflict Resolution Team, she often is asked by her peers to help settledisputes during recess.

The first program of its kind in an Anne Arundel County elementary school, CRT was started at Marley last yearby Guidance Counselor Connie Puissard, who adapted ideas from a California peer counseling program.

"This program is my pride and joy," says Puissard. "I'm enormously impressed with the job they do. You don't realize how capable children can be with one another."

Four times a year, 10 volunteers are chosen by teachers and Puissard for training as CRTs. The children receive armbands to wear on the playground, a signal to other youngsters that help is near.

They are not police officers, emphasizes Puissard. Their authority is simply that of negotiator, and if a situation is too much for them to handle -- as it frequently is, especially in the lower grades -- the CRT refers the problem to a teacher.

But often the scrap is simple, and all that's needed is the calm voice of a CRT member, asking, "Why are you angry? How can we fix this?"

CRT Melonie Truslow, 10, recently comforted a child whose physical difficulties were being mocked by otherchildren during recess.

"I tried to help them not make fun of her," said Melonie. "I said, 'How would you like to be in her shoes?' And I tried to help her understand why they might act like that."

The students teach STAR control -- stop, think, act, then reward yourself -- a motto that helps them in all areas of life, says Principal Lorraise Brooks.

"I feel proud after I've resolved a conflict," saysMelonie. "People really need you, and sometimes they don't want to get the teacher, because they're scared they'll get in trouble. But asa student, you can help."

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