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The Peer Leadership Program, often known as Peer, is a school-run organization that looks upon upperclassmen to help ease the transition of freshmen to high school. Now found in many high schools and colleges across the United States, the Peer Program focuses on team building in creating trust and friendship throughout the school community. Before meeting with smaller groups of newcomers the larger Peer organization is trained to deal with the psychological and emotional] needs the newcomers may express.
The Five Stages ApproachEdit
The methodology most commonly used in training the members of Peer is known as the Five Stages Approach, which teaches Peer leaders about the five stages of a group, which are:
Stage One: Forming, which understands that upon first creating groups, the members will be nervous and anxious. This stage remains crucial as it lays the path for a leader to emerge.
Stage Two: Norming, following forming, is the stage in which group members begin to adjust to their new social atmosphere. The Peer members themselves begin to stand out as role models for the younger members.
Stage Three: Storming, the stage in which the freshmen begin to fight for roles in the group. Often conflict erupts emotionally as true feelings are expressed and group members learn about how others perceive them.
Stage Four: Performing, the point in which the group members are comfortable with each other. Unlike the stage preceding it, most of the emotions felt on this level are of trust and kindness as similarities within the group are realized. This emotional closeness, however, marks the end of the group as Stage Five arrives.
Stage Five: Mourning and Reform, the final stage which involves a parting of ways as group members review and reflect on the past. At the same time, they also focused on changing for the future. It becomes the responsibility of the Peer leader to guide their group through this process.
Despite learning it as a standard procedure the actual process of becoming a quality Peer group involves much more than understanding the five stages. Peer leaders encourage members to express themselves openly and honestly while at the same time ensuring confidentiality. As this trust grows the groups try exercises that will bring them closer as a group and hopefully build bonds as a school community. Peer encourages a healthy and safe environment for the necessary transition from one school to the next to occur. As a symbol of this closeness Peer members often acknowledge each other and their groups with a soft fist pound. This represents the teamwork and closeness built within the program and the soft nature expresses the emotional trust the Peer leaders and members have for each other.
The FOLEY MethodEdit
In order to judge the total effectiveness of the program the FOLEY method must be surveyed. The FOLEY method is comprised of five characteristics of a group's experience by which Peer leaders can have a positive impact on freshmen. First is the "F", or the focus of the group, which must be concentrated on the program at all times. If groups fall from the desired results of an activity, they will not be a quality group, so the leaders must exhibit focus on the task at hand. The second item is "O" or organization, which is crucial in all meetings. For a group to be able to accomplish any task they must be willing to set up a schedule and follow it closely. Without the necessary organization freshmen will be left behind, and the purpose of the program will be undermined. The "L" stands for leadership which is the most critical part of the program. The actual leaders must act as role models for their group, but at the same time they must be willing to let leaders emerge from the groups of freshman. Next is "E" which stands for enthusiasm, which is critical both for the Peer leaders and the freshmen. If the two groups do not exhibit interest in the program it is doomed to failure, but if everyone keeps an open mind, then success is inevitable. Finally is "Y" for youth, which emphasizes the need for growth in the group. If the group cannot look back upon their youth they cannot see how they have grown through the guidance of their Peer leaders. The FOLEY method is often a part of the Mourning and Reform stage as a group looks back at how effective they truly were and how they can work better in the future to improve.
Peer Recognition Edit
Peer leaders often have various ways of acknowledging each other as well as expressing the Peer bond and emotional trust between Peer leaders. There are many levels on which Peer recognition functions, starting from the most basic and common form to the most complex form:
Level 1: Fist Peer: This is a soft fist pound in which Peer leaders recognize each other and express their bond through Peer, often repeating such phrases as "Peer" or "Peer love". This is by far the most common form of Peer recognition.
Level 2: Eye Peer: This type of recognition involves Peer leaders making eye contact with each other for several seconds, followed by a slight head nod, which signifies that both leaders recognize each other as fellow Peer members. The Eye Peer works well because it can allow Peer members to bond from long distances.
Level 3: Mental Peer: The Mental Peer allows a Peer leader to recognize the presence of other Peer members without making direct contact, as well as allowing the Peer member to recognize when other members are thinking of Peer.
These 3 levels are the only known levels of Peer recognition, although other, more complex forms are reputed to be in development.