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Older people help younger people at school: “Senior partners in school” are looking for volunteers in Berlin – Berlin

It is often good if outsiders look at the situation when a problem arises. When someone takes the time to listen, when people with life experience help younger people.

“Use the potential of older people” – that was the motto of the club’s founder Christiane Richter, who died in 2018, when she created “Senior Partner in School eV” in Berlin 20 years ago. The need is still great, reports Birgit Johannssen, first chairwoman of “Senior Partners in School eV (SiS) Landesverband Berlin”.

In the anniversary year, too, we are looking for people aged 55 and over who will support children and young people as mentors and mediators. For the next training course to become a school mediator: from September 1st there are still a few places available. Training will continue in the coming year.

The successful engagement is also thanks to the Tagesspiegel, summarizes Birgit Johannsen. There are no exact statistics, but they estimate that “around two thirds of our volunteers became aware of us through the reporting in the Tagesspiegel”.

Laptop and WhatsApp – that should be mastered

If you want to join SiS, you first acquire the basics of mediation in an 88-hour training course. The training is free, but participants undertake to join the association and work at a school one morning a week for at least 18 months. Important are “enjoyment of working with children, willingness to learn, empathy skills, tolerance, patience, being able to listen, flexibility and humor”. In the corona pandemic, vaccination protection is a prerequisite. You should also be familiar with technology such as laptops or messenger services.

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Senior partners usually go to schools in pairs as a team. In 20 years, 47 basic training courses for school mediators have already taken place, around 660 senior citizens have taken part. The SiS Berlin association currently has 270 members, 169 of them are active in 59 schools, according to the latest statistics from the end of 2020.

The experience: girls insult each other, boys wrestle

According to the first chairman, elementary schools are more strongly represented in the old West Berlin districts, for example in Spandau, Tempelhof-Schöneberg and Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf. “We are mostly represented in elementary schools, but also in some secondary schools and a grammar school.” Unlike two decades ago, schools are now more open to external parties. Teachers could thus be relieved, and children could be better supported in some cases. Today there are also “significantly more social workers: inside and educators: inside the schools, as well as social stations”, says Birgit Johannsen.

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The goal of the “SiS” mentors remains unchanged: “We want to use the life experience and the time of the senior citizens to be contact persons for young people and to help them to resolve their conflicts non-violently and to strengthen their self-esteem . “

For the 73-year-old Birgit Johannsen, “the contact with the children from different countries is still very interesting and nice. To listen to them, to strengthen their self-esteem, to respond to them and their problems and to support them in resolving conflicts, makes sense and gives me pleasure. Entitlement and insult. Boys also insulted each other, threatened and insulted each other, and a joke sometimes got serious.

Sentences like “But he started!” Need to be checked, and disruptions in class need to be analyzed. Cyberbullying such as exclusion from chat groups was added as a new field of activity. Digitization and the use of social networks also result in “a different type of self-expression and communication,” reports Johannsen.

Children are marginalized, they need help

Most recently, the SiS volunteers also supported and accompanied children who had fled from Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq and cooperated with increasingly international school pedagogical teams. Due to language problems or another culture, there are sometimes misunderstandings that need to be cleared up.

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As a result of the inclusion and the dissolution of the special needs schools, according to the SiS experience, there have been more problems due to behavioral problems and then exclusion. School has also become more of a living space, thanks to all-day schools, care, after-school care, breakfast and lunch offers. It is positive that “the children have become more self-confident and open”.

In the SiS anniversary edition you can read that in 2019 alone there were exactly 5284 mediations, individual discussions and mentoring, group discussions and other things with the students and 1094 teachers as well as discussions with parents at SiS.

Read about the project in the Tagesspiegel

The fact that Birgit Johannsen is so active with her senior partners is also a result of reading the Tagesspiegel, she remembers. “My SiS partner Gisela John and I read the reference to mediator training in the Tagesspiegel 18 years ago and then completed the training in February 2003. My vision is still to contribute to violence prevention and tolerance through our commitment in schools and to promote peaceful coexistence. “

The 73-year-old has been involved in the SiS duo with Gisela John, 80 years old, at the Lynar primary school in Spandau for 18 years, but most recently because of Corona a lot digitally. “After the summer vacation, most senior partners are now going back to school.”

If you want to take part: An email is sent to [email protected]. All information on the net: www.seniorpartner-berlin.de. The elderly are committed to staying mentally flexible, understanding young people better and receiving recognition. “The openness, trust and attention of the children are the thanks – and also the appreciation of the school management and the teachers is important.”

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