Conversations in Education
From teacher book groups to conversations in the faculty lounge, Prep faculty and administrators think a lot about how we support students. Each month in 2017-18, we are featuring a piece by a Prep faculty member or administrator that gives a slice of life at Prep. If you would like to share your ideas, feel free to comment on an individual post or contact Dean of Studies Sarah Cooper.
From teacher book groups to conversations in the faculty lounge, Prep faculty read and talk a lot about education. Each month we highlight a few memorable pieces or videos. Our goal is to make the process of parenting, learning and living a little saner, to put things a little more in perspective. These articles will be chosen by Prep teachers and administrators. If you want to share your ideas, feel free to comment on an individual post or contact Dean of Studies Sarah Cooper.
Advising: The Answer to Your Ninth Grader’s Questions
By Barrett Jamison
Ninth grade, the year that students begin their high school journey, is marked by two consistent themes: transition and possibility. These two themes have a common consequence: questions—and lots of them. A common list of questions asked by 9th graders before the end of third period on their second day of school might look something like this…
Should I play a high school sport? Or two? Or three? Should I go out for the play? Can I play a sport and be in the play? What club should I join? Can I start my own club? How will I make friends with all of these new students who are joining my class? How will I get to know all of these students that have been friends since 7th grade? How do I organize my binder? Do I need a binder? What should I wear to Homecoming? Should I ask someone to Homecoming or go in a group? How do I study for exams? Should I do community service? What are ACL, SCAC, JPD, Senior Leaders, Morning Meeting and Peer Counseling? Where do I check in during my free period? Do I even have to check in? What is for lunch today? How do I access my Prep email? What databases does our library have? Should I bring a laptop to class? Can I check out a laptop from the library? What is the policy on chewing gum in class? Can I use my cell phone at school? How do I write a research paper? How do I balance my time? What is Conduct Review? What time does the library close? What is the Pythagorean Theorem?
Enter 9th grade advising, a weekly moment of calm, safety and friendship. It is an emotional anchor on this tumultuous journey of transition and possibility that we call 9th grade.
The 9th grade advising program has a simple structure. Students are divided by gender into groups of about eight, with a faculty member as their advisor. The groups meet every Friday for a class period. A weekly curriculum includes topics such as goal setting, study skills, sex education, time management and holiday traditions.
But it isn’t the curriculum that is most important. What matters most are the relationships that are built into this weekly pause: the relationships built among students, and also between faculty and students. These relationships allow students to ask the questions that have been plaguing them since last week or since last period. These relationships allow them to share their concerns and worries. These relationships allow them to brainstorm solutions to their problems and to celebrate their successes. These relationships help create the sense of community that defines the Prep experience.
You may wonder what the 9th graders think about advising. I asked students in my last geometry class of the day to tell me, and this is what they said…
“Advising is a place I can talk openly about what I’m feeling about issues.”
“Now I have another adult on campus that I can go to for help.”
“In advising I get to talk to people I wouldn’t normally run into.”
“The most valuable part of advising was getting to know a teacher I wouldn’t otherwise have known.”
“Advising was just what I needed on Fridays. A place where I didn’t feel stressed, and I could talk about my week.”
“Don’t forget the snacks!”
So if your 9th grader comes home distraught and worried because they couldn’t get their locker open or didn’t know who to ask for help writing a lab report, you know what to do. Smile, offer a hug and a snack (because for some reason part of the solution to every problem for a 9th grader involves a snack) and tell them to bring up their concerns on Friday at advising. Or better yet, tell them to find their advisor tomorrow!
Barrett Jamison is the Dean of Student Life and the 9th Grade Dean.
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