People and Globe

Four Themes That Unite Peers, Mentors and Coaches

While professionals often use research to support the value of peers helping peers, certain topics that provide a foundation for peer work ignite the interest of the general public. Information about these popular themes appears frequently in magazines, newspapers and talk shows, but they are often presented as great ideas without anchoring them to something as practical as a peer program.

Volunteerism is one of the four current themes that is gaining interest across North America. Virtually all peer programs are examples of involving volunteers in a meaningful way. The Canadian response of volunteers to assist refugees from war-torn countries is an example of peer-to-peer volunteerism. From more about this type of activity, contact Volunteer.ca.

Character Education is a trend which has seen a resurgence as schools and communities seek ways to help young people become more connected to appropriate values, models, and behaviour. Often devised as a curriculum, character education teaches skills and attitudes that parallel most of the training programs associated with peer assistance. Learning how to listen, expressing empathy toward others, and making good choices are often at the core of the character education approach. For more information about this trend visit the Character Counts website.

A third contemporary topic that acts as a foundation for peer assistance is Emotional Intelligence. Learning how to deal with feelings (awareness, expression, recognition understanding, and using) typically is the primary topic of most peer assistance interactions. Therefore, peers are often in a position to not only strengthen their own emotional intelligence but to also help others do the same. One of the best books for school-based peer programs on this topic is Developing Emotional Intelligence: A Guide to Behavior Management and Conflict Resolution in Schools, written by Richard Bodine and Donna Crawford.

This concept is not limited to schools and was originally developed for the larger society and has been actively applied to business settings. Peer programs in non-school based settings will benefit from a book by Steve Simmons, Measuring Emotional Intelligence: The Groundbreaking Guide to Applying the Principles of Emotional Intelligence.

One of the most popular topics discussed at many professional conferences is Resiliency. How do we bounce back from traumatic or adverse events? Resiliency was originally identified as that set of characteristics that distinguished young people who were subjected to toxic early life experiences and were debilitated by them in later life from young people who had the same toxic experiences yet overcame such conditions when they grew older.

Resiliency experts have identified a number of “protective” factors that help people deal more effectively with adversity and they have organized these factors into principles that can be learned and applied on both an individual and community basis. Many of these factors are identical to the principles associated with peer assistance. For more information on resiliency, visit Resiliency in Action or go to Peer Resources’ Top Books on Mentoring web page to read a review of the book, Resiliency in Action.

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