This year has been full of changes—from COVID-19 coronavirus adaptations to a new head of school. One of the other changes in the upper school are the weekly advisory meetings, which were introduced at the start of the school year. Students now go to advisory meetings to talk to their advisors and their peers every week instead of every two weeks. While the administrators and some students maintain this is a right step in the development of a positive community, others have expressed their beliefs that this is a waste of their time.
Weekly advisory was implemented to better achieve goals set out by the upper school administration. These goals include the cultivation of advisor-student relationships, honest conversations on racism and sexism, early discovery of wellness issues and much more.
Upper School Principal Mr. Andrew Lowman believes the old meeting schedule to be inadequate. “As we honestly reflected on what we hoped to do with advisory, it became painfully obvious as well that there just was not enough time to do it,” he said.
The advisory program was designed so that students could have a trusted adult on campus to talk to. Yet, in recent years, many students have stated they were not able to develop these relationships due to a lack of time.
“Honestly, it is really hard to develop a strong relationship because even when we are in advisory, everyone tends to navigate towards talking to their peers” Rachel S. (‘21) said, “so, we don’t get the chance to know our advisor personally.”
Another concern some students have had with building trust with their advisors is their advisors potentially becoming their teachers in one of the subjects. Many worry this creates a conflict of interest since now their advisors would also evaluate their academic performance and become informed by it in turn. However, the school argues that such instances are far in between. “Most of the time, advisors don’t have an evaluative role on [their students],” Mr. Lowman said.
Since the change, many students, especially juniors and seniors who had been used to bi-weekly advisories, have complained about the added times to their schedules. Mathematically speaking, doubling the meeting times might sound onerous, but it is really just one more hour every month.
Additionally, several students also argue the advisory experience is more dependent on their peers’ and their advisor’s contributions within it. Some have expressed the lack of care from their peers and advisors, while others have stated the benefits of having their meetings. “This year, advisory has allowed me to connect more with my peers and my advisor in ways I could not really do before,” Ethan J. (‘21) said.
With advisory becoming a place for more serious conversations, the line between solemnity and somberness becomes blurred. “Sometimes it is hard for advisors to draw this line which creates another factor that prevents productivity during advisory,” Rachel said. As students learn to take the meetings more seriously and teachers receive more training, both must carefully navigate this change.