We have a new counselor in the middle school this year. At a meeting of the middle school advisors a few days ago, she asked, “In ten words or less, what is Advisory to you?” Most of us took a few more than ten words, but we did offer a variety of perspectives, while keeping things fairly concise.
(A bit of background- Our advisories are groups of 10-13 students divided by grade level. Sometimes teachers will have students who are in their content area classes in advisory, but this isn’t always the case, A group of 8-9 advisors exists for each grade level, and these advisors meet bi-monthly to discuss concerns related to students. Advisories meet M, T, TH, and F during the last 45 minutes of the school day for bonding, study hall, and exploration of social and emotional health issues.)
Several people suggested to them an advisory was like a family within the larger community of the middle school. One teacher suggested that advisories were like the tidal pools that form along bodies of water. Others pointed out that advisory can be challenging if you have a student with whom you struggle to make connections. Several teachers noted that the emotional work of advisory can be draining, especially given all the demands placed on a teacher throughout the course of a school day. That emotional investment has the potential to payoff in big ways, though, since relationships with advisees can be stronger than with other students. I also pointed out that I think advisory provides a “value-add” for our school because parents can feel confident that there is a teacher at the school who has an special responsibility for his son or daughter. That might not be the case at other schools.
Reflecting on what Advisory is before we jumped into the joyous chaos of the first few days of school was really fruitful. I’ll admit that Advisory is one of the most challenging parts of teaching for me. It’s the part of teaching that I don’t feel like I bargained for going in. The work of navigating human relationships takes much more energy than navigating the content of US or World History. But as I’ve been reminded by conversations with folks like Zac and Chris at EduCon and elsewhere, care for students (both their minds and their hearts) is the most important work that we do.