In an average advisory class, most students are disengaged, on their phones and waiting for the 25-minute period to pass. Many graduate not fully knowing the peers they have spent four years with in advisory, which is not acceptable.
Principal Amy Murphy said advisory was created to teach students “soft skills” not typically learned in a traditional class setting, after the school got a grant to create this kind of program around 2004.
Although Murphy said some students may not understand the purpose of advisory, it’s intended “to create a space where a kid could make a connection with a teacher or an adult in this building,” Murphy said. “That’s critical, for kids to feel like they’re connected with this building.”
English teacher Bill Smithyman who also oversees advisory programming mentioned how the connection made in advisory is the most important aspect of the program. Despite the importance of district-mandated programming, such as Naviance training and drug and alcohol awareness talks, Smithyman emphasized how connection is above everything else.
“Let’s say we never touch Naviance, let’s say we never touch drugs and alcohol, let’s say we never touch any of the stuff that matters, it should be a point in the day where a kid sees a familiar face,” Smithyman said.
But few classrooms are exhibiting this camaraderie, making the system feel broken. We feel there are ways to turn advisory into something students feel excited to go to, starting with the groups themselves.
We feel that the way we assign freshmen to advisory classes should be done differently, to make connections more attainable. We propose having both students and teachers take a personality test, such as the Myers-Briggs or the Enneagram, at the beginning of their time at Northwest to determine who they would best interact with. Personality types are a great way to arrange groups, as similar groups have similar learning styles and motivations, yet do not have to be so similar that they end up having all the same opinions.
During advisory classes, students need to have more opportunities to take a break from the standard four walls and go outside, or spend advisory in the future learning spaces, which will be developed in this coming summer. Once in a while, there are assemblies or panels all students are required to attend, but getting out of a traditional setting is something we would look forward to.
As far as the content of advisory, we recommend scrapping the generic PowerPoints and PEEP-designed class periods, as they can often come off as insincere, overgeneralized or rushed. Rather than lectures, we believe teachers should be given a topic with some resource material, like an article or quote to spark discussion, but enough ambiguity for individual advisories to take activities their own directions. There needs to be more honest talk of important topics like mental health, alcohol and substance abuse, college, healthy relationships and preparing for the world after high school. But the apathetic discussions and slideshows we have grown used to are hindering us from making connections with each other to share how we really feel.
If students want to see a more connected and dependable advisory, they have to unite and take action. Talking to StuGo representatives and the school administration about these ideas is the best way to get the advisory we need and deserve.