________________ CM . . . . Volume V Number 5 . . . . October 30, 1998

cover Someone to Talk to: Peer Helping in High School.

Annie Ilkow (Director), Judith Merritt (Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 1997.
27 min. 03 sec., colour, VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: 9196 063.

Subject Headings:
Peer counseling of students.
Peer counseling of students-Ontario-Ottawa-Case studies.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by Katie Cook.

* / 4

In over 6000 Canadian high schools, peer helping programs have been training teenagers to help teenagers overcome problems from relationships with parents and peers to violence to pregnancy to drug abuse. This video follows both students and counsellors at two Ottawa high schools for the entire school year. It records their impressions of the program and their frustrations at not being able to do enough to get through to others, especially parents.

      The key ideas in peer helping are listening and trust. This video will not assist your school in setting up a peer helping program or show how a successful peer helping program is run. It will not help train peer helpers or give teachers information about why or how the program can be successful in your high school. It does show you a dozen peer helpers from these two Ottawa high schools and records their impressions of two guidance counsellors.

      Unfortunately, like other videos of this type, things would have been drastically improved with a script. Some good information is lost in rambling discourses by the peer helpers. Much of the dialogue consists of a single peer helper speaking directly to the camera about his or her feelings. It is often boring and rarely connects with the viewer. The schools in the film are both very multi-racial buildings with close to 2000 students each. Such schools just do not connect with the situation of many high schools in the country. A broader perspective showing peer helping in different types of schools would have been more useful.

      The video lacks "flow." The viewer is "hopped" from student to student with no transitions in between. If viewers did not read the information on the video cover, they would not know that two schools are the subject of the video or that the interviews took place over the course of an entire school year. In fact, the cover of the video is extremely misleading: "The video captures candid moments which reveal how the peer helpers' communication skills pays off when they're confronted with a difficult situation - whether it's a friend in crisis, a painful break-up, or a grade-nine student at war with her parents." From this description, the video would seem to show actual situations in which peer counsellors assist fellow students, an approach which would also show the value of the peer helping program and some of its structure. Such is not the case in the video. Our "candid moments" consist of peer helpers standing in the hallways of their schools and speaking into the camera about their feelings about this program.

      If you are interested in seeing how peer helpers perceive their program, this could be an informative video. If you want to start a peer helper program in your own school, this video will give you very little information.

Not recommended.

Katie Cook is a social studies teacher and a teacher-librarian at the Steinbach Regional Secondary School in Steinbach, Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364