Tie And Jeans

What is your school built on?

I’m still processing educon and our Break The Bell session into coherent posts. One of the things that’s pushing me down this track is the flood of emails between the new friends and colleagues that I met this weekend at SLA.

While I still carry plenty of angst around meeting new people, I recognize the tremendous value that comes from having to explain your philosophy, pedagogy, learning narrative and goals on a hyper-compressed scale. It gives me a chance to restate and rediscover the beliefs at the core of my teaching practice.

One of those pillars is that a middle school without an Advisory program is probably doing more harm than good.

I personally believe that homeroom, Advisory or whatever you call it, is the beating heart of middle school. These are the hours set aside for a small group of adolescents and adults to learn with and about each other, to grow and adapt to one another’s presence. If that time is sacrosanct, dedicated to supporting and recognizing each adolescent as a member of the school community, respected and celebrated by all, then 90% of the middle school battle is won.

If it slides into an unlabeled study hall or a “relax and watch the YouTubes” time, then every class, every section, begins to teeter, kept aloft only by the teacher’s attitude, personality and commitment. Advisory forms the bedrock, the safety net of school culture. A healthy advisory is the place were a teenager who feels slighted, dismissed, insulted, ignored, will bring their hurt and look for solutions. Without that in place, their anger and disappointment will ferment in small social pockets, and explode through major disruptive behavior or distraught parents.

Here’s my quick test, assuming your school has a structure bell-laden schedule. Does it look like the advisory time was the central pillar around which the day formed, or like it was used as spackle to fill gaps and seams between important stuff?

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2 thoughts on “What is your school built on?

  1. Just discovered your blog. I have been charged with bringing an Advisory Program to my school. Your post doesnt indicate if you use a particular program or not. I see that Developmental Designs was tagged. Do you use that one? I am trying to find someone (other that Origins) familiar with the program and get some unbiased feedback. Are you familiar with any other programs/curriculums? I have looked into ESR National (Educators for Social REsponsibility) but they charge big bucks.
    Any advice is greatly appreciated.
    thanks a lot
    Carol Huck, School Counselor

    • Hi Carol–
      I’m at the same school as Andrew, and am one of the people who helped get DD training for our whole middle school this year. As a 20 year veteran, having worked with many programs, I have to say that DD is great for solidifying a positive culture in teachers, not just students. Any school can write and implement their own to a positive end, but DD builds well on responsive classroom (which our lower school employs), and really does provide a language and template that can be learned and built upon. I have been in full DD schools, and then used it myself as a pilot/model in our 7/8. Even one advisory, alone, was able to do some amazing things. I wrote about it on my (far less populated) blog as a part of the pitch for bringing Origins to campus: http://monumentaleducation.wordpress.com/2012/11/19/designing-development-looking-back/
      We have had nay-sayers on faculty, about why it has to be so purposeful, so structured, but going through the week of training has drawn in even the most skeptical. I am looking forward to the fall when we are all on this journey together.
      There is a 1 day intro to Developmental Designs workshop that would give a good taste; also, their advisory book and study guide is specifically to look at the program without everyone being trained. Finally, depending on your location and budget, there is a charter school in Minneapolis with DD in the charter. I recommend all of these as possibilities to see it in action.
      Hope this helps; good luck with your advisory program!

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