VOMA Quarterly

by Trish Charo and Barb Toews

When a trainer walks into a room and begins a workshop, her trainees have many expectations. They want to receive knowledge and creativity. They expect an atmosphere where learning can take place with the least amount of boredom.
Now picture a roomful of trainees who are trainers in their own right. Although most of this audience are experts in their field, they too have the same expectations for knowledge, creativity and an atmosphere of learning with the least amount of boredom. At the VOMA Training Institute in Des Moines, Karen Ridd, the courageous trainer,  was up for the challenge of presenting a "Training for Trainers."
Karen began the training by leading a discussion on the underlying premises of the training. The first premise was that trainers are not "full vessels" pouring their knowledge into the trainees' "empty vessels." Rather, we all come to trainings with full vessels of knowledge from which we are challenged to pour back and forth among us. The second premise was that many skills used in mediation can also be used by trainers as well. Effective listening, patience, centering, respect and consensual processing (just to name a few!) are important skills for creating a successful learning experience in a training.
During the two-day Training for Trainers, Karen filled the trainees with information on at least 101 new ways to teach mediation skills, ranging from asking questions to handling zingers, and how to make time-tested, often despised,  role-plays more challenging and fun. We played games with M&Ms and we played games with brownies. Standing in a circle, we threw socks to each other to demonstrate collaboration. We shared zingers we have heard or feared we would hear, and we worked together in small groups to find appropriate zinger responses. We discussed how to set up and debrief  role-plays, how to keep people from overacting, and how to deal with trainee resistance to role plays.
Through many activities, we shared creative and innovative tools for educating about restorative justice. Using our collective experience  we had a great deal of fun and learned to be learners as well as trainers. As the workshop ended, we left the room better trainers. We also left with some of the courage, style and tremendous skills displayed by Karen.  We believe that everyone who participated in Karen's Training for Trainers' workshop  walked away giving something of themselves and receiving a lot in return.

by Jack Alkire

Since 1992 I have participated as a volunteer mediator with the Seattle, Washington VORP. My "day job" has involved litigation of business disputes as a partner in a large, Seattle-based law firm.  For the last two years, I toyed with the idea of attending a VOMA Conference. I finally made it last year to Iowa, and I am glad I did. Of the thousands of things I learned (or relearned), here are a few key points I took home with me:
The mission of restorative justice is to couple resolution of conflict with restoration of positive family and community values. This is neither novel nor complex. The persistent human need for positive family and community connections is thousands of years old, and found in every culture worldwide.
The restorative justice model is based on hope and--despite the detractors who would claim such a foundation is naive, silly, or just plain stupid--the bare fact remains that human civilization as we know it simply would not exist without this hope.

(See "Jack" continued on page 5)