When we started at Aveson, I had no idea what “Advisory” was all about or why teachers were called “Advisors.” It seemed like a simple settling-in time, a time to get students’ chats out: what’d you do this weekend? Did your soccer team win? Is your birthday coming soon? Students sit in a circle, with the advisor included, often passing a “talking piece” around. It was sometimes as simple as greetings and handshakes and casual conversations. But behind it all was a greater plan, one that I value so immensely now: advisory is creating community.
The most important relationships for my daughters are the ones that come out of their initial class, where the first 20 minutes are devoted to talking and sharing experiences. It reassures them that they have support from their peers and understanding from their advisor.
It also humanizes their advisor, who gets to joke with them, offer a sympathetic ear, or chime in on a student’s excitement for something. All the while, this advisor is also strengthening his or her understanding of the students. Personalized Learning means needing to know the student completely, not just academically. There is a lot of evaluation and personalization happening in those first few minutes of the day. Without this, it is a teacher standing before the class, knowing little more than each student’s name and how they perform on a test.
Advisory time at Aveson is also a time to develop topics of relevance and commit to take action on something. High school students spend much of the time discussing “Pathways,” a curriculum that leads them closer to their post-high school goals by helping them understand themselves better. By vetting this in a trusted group, students have the valuable support of an entire class, often hearing input that can inspire them or having an advisor or peer present an opportunity they wouldn’t have found on their own.
In the younger grades, much of advisory is dedicated to the MindUp curriculum, a social emotional learning program that can help a classroom work through relevant issues or coach them on interpersonal skills. Spending time on this daily allows the kids to fully explore concepts and evaluate their own emotional health. It also offers a forum for current issues or conflict resolution to be dealt with as a class. Much of this would traditionally be done one-on-one, but by enabling the entire class to identify and problem solve, each conflict becomes a teachable moment for everyone.
My girls are rarely late for school. They see these first 20 minutes as a dynamic and valuable time for their social climate. To be late to that would mean someone would have greater insight into their peers than they do–that someone, in most cases, is their advisor!