Sunday, June 16, 2013

Orange Session (2) Advisories

Session (2)

People who use the advisory system believe that a school is more than just academics.  

An advisory is defined in Dennis Littky's book as follows:  "the entire school is divided into advisories of small groups of kids (I like 14) and one adult who stay together much of the day through all four years."

What happens in an advisory?
Dennis Littky says, "Spending my mornings with those kids just talking about their lives and their learning was the best part of my day. It was the most significant way I was able to use my time to get at the heart of what my role as principal was and how I could best support my staff and students."

1. an advisory system increases the range and kinds of communication among students and staff, and by spreading out the counseling function, makes problems more manageable and better solu- tions easier to come by. 

2.  an advisory system includes an adult advisor who becomes that one true advocate every student (and every student’s family) deserves.  There is one adult in the school who really knows the kid as a person and as a learner.  The advisor can make sure that all the other school structures are meeting that kid’s personal and educational needs. 

3.  With an advisory system, parents know exactly who can tell them how their kid is doing; they don’t have to chase down six or eight different teachers, each of whom only knows a small part of the big picture of their child’s education. 

What are objections to the advisory system?
Some teachers see a zero-sum situation.  Time spent in advisories takes away from academic time.
Here's a response by a student at Littky's school:  “No time to talk with kids!? Isn’t that the main thing about being a teacher?”

Please read the excerpt from Big Picture and think about the questions.

The reading from Big Picture:
page 61-62
The Advisory System
I used to think that creating an advisory system was the core of my vision for changing the way schools are structured. I now see there are a number of critical things that must be in place if we’re really committed to creating effective learning environments for kids (see this entire book). But I am still committed to the idea that an advisory system is the best structure to improve a school’s atmosphere and culture and make an already small school feel even smaller and more personalized.

George Wood talked about advisories in his piece on Thayer in Schools That Work. Here’s an excerpt I love:

Don Weisberger, a special education teacher at Thayer, describes the system’s effect this way: “Advisory in one word is communication. It makes the school smaller. . . . [Students] know someone’s there for them, they are not getting lost among all the other students. . . . In advisory we don’t talk at kids, we talk with kids.”

There are many variations on the advisory system, from the way we did it at Shoreham-Wading River, where kids met with the same small group of students and adult every morning to “check in,” to the way we do it at The Met, where the entire school is divided into advisories of small groups of kids (I like 14) and one adult who stay together much of the day through all four years. I know that the way we do things at The Met is unique and may not be possible in all schools. But I also know that setting up a system where students have a consistent environment where they are able to truly connect with a small group of kids and one adult can radically change their entire schooling experience. It was a shy and awkward but very bright kid who told a visitor to The Met, “I have 14 friends here. At my old school I wouldn’t have had any.” That was his advisory. An incredibly strong community of 15.

For Discussion
1.  What advantages would there be to you if you could work as a teacher who has an advisory?

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