Posts Tagged Advisory is Essential

Our Visitors See It: Advisory Is Essential

At Wildwood School we design our programs with our students’ futures in mind—helping them learn the key content, build essential skills, and develop the necessary habits for success in college and life.

Advisory is an essential part of our design.

A recent "chalk talk" discussion in a Division Two  advisory

A recent “chalk talk” discussion in a Division Two advisory

We dedicate much more time to advisory at Wildwood than most other school, public or private (four hours per week in most grades). That’s intentional, and has helped our advisory program gain notoriety—nationally and internationally.

This past week, I had occasion to reflect on how meaningful that commitment to advisory truly is. Every year The Wildwood Outreach Center hosts visiting educators from across the world, curious to see how advisory works at Wildwood, as they consider how their own schools’ advisory programs can develop.

Students in Erin Hansen's Division Two advisory engage in discussion

Students in Erin Hansen’s Division Two advisory engage in discussion

Visits to Wildwood’s middle and upper school advisories in action are a key part of the work.  I believe it is significantly helpful for our visitors to see the consistency of purpose common to all strong advisory programs. Last week at Wildwood, that meant in all four Divisions, one theme—multiculturalism—played out in four different, developmentally appropriate lessons.

Our advisory program’s multicultural theme provides a full scope of work that ensures each student understands and assesses the elements of one’s own multicultural identities (e.g., race, gender, physical ability, etc.) and how they operate in the world around them.

Here are snapshots of what our visitors saw our students working on during one advisory period:

Division One (6th grade) Focus: Choosing ally behavior
Students circulate through four stations, each prompting them to consider the different perspectives of people in conflict: bullies, targets, bystanders, and allies. Using this “four square” model, students discuss, among other topics, the challenges and benefits of choosing ally behavior over being a bystander.

Division Two (7th and 8th grades) Focus: Physical appearance
Through a “four corners” discussion, students grapple with how our society’s obsession with physical appearance can often lead to objectification—treating a person as a thing without considering his or her humanity.

Division Three (9th and 10th grades) Focus: Socio-economic status
Student teams are assigned hypothetical socio-economic profiles (some wealthy, some poor, some in-between) which either help or hinder their abilities to simulate a year in their lives: find housing and transportation, build a budget to meet household needs, etc.

Senior Institute (11th and 12th grades) Focus: Education
Advisory discussions focus on how socio-economic status, race, and gender intersect to create distinct advantages and disadvantages for students taking the SAT and ACT for college entrance.

What our visitors see is that through advisory, we live our school’s mission, daily—providing students the time and space to think, learn, and reflect on the topics relevant to their future success amid the competing priorities of a complex, evolving, and multicultural world.

That’s an advantage Wildwood students will take with them—to college and into life.

~ By Steve Barrett, Director of Outreach, Teaching, and Learning

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GRIT: It’s About Relationships

Grit from NYTimes

As the conversation continues among educators about “grit”, that determiner of long-term success for students, I believe we should be hearing more about the role of relationships.

My years in the classroom as a teacher and advisor have made it clear to me that while the perseverance we call grit may be innate or instinctive for some, it can also be learned, cultivated and instilled – with help from caring adults.

Why grit matters is clear: the ability to envision and attain goals and long term achievement can keep a student on course during a dry spell, a downturn, or even a series of disappointments.  Adults as advisors can help build grit by documenting progress and incremental successes along the way.  Those positives are critical in creating grit as a habit.  The data shows that success is not mostly or only about talent, its correlation with grit is very high. But you need to get there.

Student-advisor relationships are most valuable when the goals are not just about the semester ahead, but take in a broader, big picture scope. Mapping ultimate destinations – in college, career, and life – with consistent guidance from caring adults over a long period of time matters. Kids are not always ready to take the long view, but adults can show them how many short views add up to a long view, and a picture of greater success.

I’m also interested in how thinking about thinking fits in.  Helping students develop what Stanford Professor Carol Dweck calls a growth mindset is another key determiner. In other words, a student’s capacity to see herself as capable of learning ever greater amounts of information and applying new thinking tools influences outcomes.  Advisors remind students of their status as growers – the advantage is with young students in re-setting the brain’s capacity to integrate new data and habits.

Unpacking the conversation about grit is helping to inform our work at Wildwood around how we structure our advisory programs. Grit, like advisory, is essential to students success – both in school and life.  Find out more about how advisory programs can help students develop grit; click to learn more about workshops offered through The Wildwood Outreach Center – Advisory Is Essential 101 and Advisory is Essential 201.

~ Steve Barrett, Director of Outreach, Teaching, and Learning

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