Our Middle School has a fairly developed advisory program in the 6th - 8th grades. This will be my seventh year as an advisor, and I really, really love it. Which is very surprising to me because it was the thing I was most nervous about when starting at this school - I know math, I don't necessarily know adolescents and their crazy thinking and feelings and struggles. But it's turned out much, much better than I had feared, and I would not like to go back to just being a classroom teacher like I was before. I really enjoy the close relationships that I develop with advisees and the community that advisory becomes as the year progresses.
Some aspects of the program:
- Advisors welcome students to a new year with either a phone call or a letter sent home before school starts. Here is my letter that I'm sending out in a few days, but I hand wrote each one on a cute notecard. Kids love getting mail!
- Advisory meets first thing every morning for 10 minutes to go through announcements and check in with students and for 45 minutes twice a week ("extended advisory").
- Advisors meet with students and parents twice a year for Parent-Advisor-Student conferences, led by the student. They discuss the student's progress and other issues that are affecting them. 8th grade advisors (that's me!) also help students register for high school classes if they are continuing into our high school.
- The advisor is basically the touch point between the student and family and the school. The advisor keeps tabs on how the student is doing academically (via other teachers), behaviorally (via the assistant principal), and emotionally (via the counselor). Concerns about the student are supposed to go to the advisor first, either from other teachers or from parents.
- During extended advisory, we do activities that are related to the advisory curriculum (more on that below), play games, play outside, or meet one-on-one with advisees. Two big things that the 8th graders also do during advisory is participate in a Little Buddies program with a younger class and do community service projects, like helping out at a food pantry. One of the extended advisories takes place on a Friday morning and students take turns bringing in breakfast so that the advisory can sit down and eat breakfast together.
- The curriculum is pretty loose, but tries to hit the following topics:
- Learning/study strategies, goal setting, other academic type skills, including preparing to lead conferences
- Executive functioning, organization (a lot of our students struggle with this)
- Risky behaviors (sex, drugs, and rock & roll)
- Relationships (navigating friendships & dating, cliques and excluding others)
- Bullying & aggressive behavior
- Online stuff (navigating social media, safety, civility in a digital world)
- Media literacy, including being a smart consumer
- Body image & eating disorders
- Diversity & inclusion
- Leadership & communication skills
- 8th grade advisors select a book for each of their advisees as a graduation gift (the school pays for this). This is one of my fave traditions, but it takes me forever to come up with the perfect book for each kid.