Apprentis d’Auteuil mediation meetings between young people in conflict or between young people and adults have been around for 18 years. The profoundly original approach of this mediation is that it is conducted by youngsters and adults working in pairs. Albert Sabat, who came up with the project, explains.
How did Mediation at Apprentis d’Auteuil come about ?
It began in 1998, at Sainte-Thérèse High School, Paris, where I taught English. A group of teachers, educators and young people suggested it as a way to prevent young people being excluded, after incidents of non-premeditated violence. We had to identify what the tensions and conflicts were and hold mediation meetings. This already existed in other schools, but it was conducted by young mediators.
But here, the original thing is that youngsters and adults working in pairs conduct it. Since it was set up, this scheme has helped to peacefully resolve conflicts between young people, and between young people and adults. In 2001, the experiment was extended to other schools where headmasters were interested. The results quickly showed how useful mediation is, as its values match the aims of the Foundation fully – to help teenagers on their way to adulthood, a period characterised by difficulty in controlling their impulses and putting themselves in danger.
Why go to Mediation ?
A word of caution: mediation is never a substitute for obeying the rules! We don’t use it to avoid punishment, but to express our point of view freely and without fear of unpleasant consequences, as mediators have no hierarchical or disciplinary powers. Their role is to ensure that dialogue is resumed in a caring and disciplined framework and help the protagonists to be aware of the sources of their conflict.
From personal experience on many occasions, I can testify to an amazing moment where everyone understands that it’s not always the other person’s fault – you can be overcome with passion or anger, or blinded by resentment. This awareness helps set aside adversarial posturing so they decide to seek a solution together. This is when both parties come up trumps and show great creativity in finding new solutions !
Here’s a classic example leading to mediation: a pupil is not working in class, voices are raised, and the situation escalates. The teacher wants the pupil to work and progress, but the pupil feels harassed and thinks that whatever he does, he will never get good grades, according to his way of thinking, the teacher has it in for him. His behaviour is ill disciplined. The teacher tries to communicate with him and seeing that he cannot succeed, chooses to request mediation rather than punish him. The teacher’s aim is to bring in a third non-hierarchical party to break the deadlock. The added value of Apprentis d’Auteuil is the involvement of adults.
Does this approach bear fruit ?
Indeed it does! On an educational level, young co-mediators discover their talents and ability to participate genuinely in the life of their school and to contribute to a peaceful atmosphere. It’s a good example of intergenerational collaboration.
The other young people discover how much the adults care about the quality of their relationship with them. They become aware that the aim of the teachers is to actually help them.
As for the adults, training in mediation organised by Apprentis d’Auteuil develops their responsiveness, kindness and new relational skills towards young people. ‘This has a direct impact on teaching practices’, says Éric Debarbieux, Ministerial Delegate in charge of the Prevention of and Fight against Violence in Schools until September 2015. This encouraging teen/adult relationship facilitates more effective academic and professional learning.
Mediation at Apprentis d’Auteuil
- A Mediation Charter
- 25 link workers across France
- 50 mediations per year
- 200 young people educated every year
- 200 adults belonging to mediation teams
- 1300 adults educated since 2001