Program (adT) edition 2021/ 2022

Program (adT) aims at increasing levels of psychosocial integration of adolescent students in the classroom (levels of student autonomy and of belonging; increasing levels of achievement, the third component of psychosocial integration (Alexander, 2007) is a core task of the school). According to Alexander low levels for all three elements equal ‘dislocation’: an “excruciatingly painful” (p.85) state from which it is rational to escape to alternative life choices such as substance addiction, gang memberships, political or religious extremism, “anybody and anything that promises relief” (Van der Kolk, 2014, p.351) or fall into worsened mental states.

The program consists of multiple instruments:

Edition 2021/ 2022

Edition 2021/ 2022, in which 45 first classes of 12 Gdańsk (Poland) high schools participated, brought many indicative insights, including a description of student levels of autonomy and belonging in the classroom over time and a description of the measured impact of the program.

Among current adolescent students, an ‘acceptance divide’ seems to exist. On the one hand, there seems to be a vast majority of students who accept themselves and their immediate surroundings and in return are accepted by these surroundings. The level of this acceptance is not influenced by external factors. The relation of this majority with anything beyond their immediate surroundings is challenging: communication with others is met with little enthusiasm, as are new and demanding situations. On the other hand, a group of 10–20% of adolescents seems to exist who do not accept themselves and/ or have no acceptance relationship with their immediate surroundings or beyond.

In a default classroom, as a result of their challenging relationship with anything beyond their immediate surroundings, adolescent students on regular basis display negative behavior such as reluctance, disrespect, and hostility, towards each other and their teachers. Over time though, the majority of students starts to show growing respect, support, and autonomous behavior in the classroom. On the surface, it might seem that the sphere of their acceptance has been widened to include the teachers and their fellow students. Below the surface though, the potential for negative behavior only grows and can flare up at any time. Students on the flip side of the acceptance divide can function as catalysts.

A way to prevent a breakdown of classroom relations is by actively trying to using interactionist didactics to make all students feel seen, heard, and safe, including the students on the wrong side of the acceptance divide. In the program (adT) the following elements are implemented to achieve this:

  • Rules are in place enabling student freedom within transparent limits;
  • Communication involving all students starts structured (one-on-one, only ‘I statements’, random selection) until a behavioral groundwork is achieved;
  • There is a build-up in the divisiveness of topics;
  • Student revolts are encouraged and met by the teacher through a peer-to-peer response.

As a result of these elements, the potential for negative behavior by students is not growing and over time might even diminish, while the level of negative behavior declines. And, students experience a widening of their sphere of acceptance. But, this widening takes more time and effort to achieve than the default version. While the new acceptance goes deeper than the default version, it is not as deep as the acceptance between students and their immediate surroundings, nor should it be. The acceptance forged is behavioral in nature.

Literature

Alexander, B. (2007). The globalization of addiction. Oxford University Press

Van der Kolk, B. (2014). The body keeps the score. Viking Press