The Aseltine Program is about change. Exploring new ways of overcoming obstacles and conflicts requires basic changes in the way students with learning disabilities and emotional disturbances view themselves in the world. We understand that change requires risk; risk requires openness; openness requires trust; trust requires the sense of safety and security that comes from supportive community; challenge without community can be threatening, and supportive community without challenge can be stagnating and promote dependency.
The Aseltine program works creatively and effectively with our students to provide them with the necessary tools to understand and resolve their conflicts in an appropriate, thoughtful, and productive manner. Aseltine staff understand, validate, and support our students’ attempts at mastering the complex challenges they face. We understand that facing up to the demands of life is not an easy task – at any age.
Every day, staff challenge students to identify, understand, and overcome their various conflicts with people, with circumstances, and within themselves. Conflict can be difficult and disturbing; at Aseltine, it can also be a catalyst for creativity and an opportunity for students to imagine, consider, experiment, and demonstrate mastery of new and productive behaviors that enable them to overcome the barriers that have limited their success to date.
We believe all students have it within themselves to respond to life’s most difficult circumstances in a thoughtful, self-disciplined, and responsible manner. Every aspect of the Aseltine Program is grounded in reinforcing and strengthening students’ conflict resolution skills; students experiencing extra difficulty functioning in class are referred or self refer to the Conflict Resolution Program, where they have expanded opportunities to explore their obstacles to learning and develop healthy strategies to overcome them.
In the Conflict Resolution Program, staff engage students from a unique perspective: the staff already know the teacher’s stance – he/she wants to teach and the student is being resistant or disruptive – they give students an opportunity to share and examine their perspectives and determine how to reconcile them with the rest of the community.
We agree with students’ critiques of school; we also push them to identify, understand and overcome their conflicts with people, circumstances and themselves instead of letting their anger and frustration control their actions. This is the step most schools skip; it is also the most empowering and enlightening one. In these conversations, staff challenge students to consider their behavior and its consequences from five points of view:
- Pragmatic (practical): What are the practical problems the student’s behavior has for the classroom and for him/her?
- Political (community): What direction will the student’s future take if he/she continues this problematic behavior?
- Personal-ethical (right action): Would the student allow others to act similarly toward him/her?
- Self-paradigmatic (identity/world view): Is the student a victim with no control over their actions or life – as his/her behavior implies – or a capable, responsible individual?
- Expressed intentionality (student’s goal): will this behavior help or hinder the student in achieving his/her goal?
By engaging students as thinkers, problem-solvers, and partners in their learning process, Aseltine students master the tools necessary to develop themselves into self-aware, confident, responsible young people prepared for life. Through the creative process of conflict resolution, students develop personal and social coping skills, communication skills, and problem-solving skills; they become empowered students who partner with staff to overcome their obstacles to success in school and in life.