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?