The Middle School Advisory Program
An effective advisory program promotes responsible individual development and supports successful personal and community growth. It provides students with opportunities to safely explore issues with a caring adult.
Advisory plays an important role in helping students create and actively engage the school community. All students are welcomed into small advisory groups in which they have support for flourishing socially, culturally, and linguistically. Students will benefit from this environment in which to explore and challenge themselves.
Within the advisory program, students engage in small group activities and discussions, whole grade activities and annual field trips. Furthermore, students engage in cross-curricular academic advising with their advisor at regular intervals throughout the year.
Topics such as organizational skills, time management, self-advocacy and independence, peer pressure, bullying, self-concept, relationships, multiculturalism, and community service are explored and put into practice within the advisory sessions.
As developing adolescents mature, they are learning new and increasingly complex social roles. While this can lead to a growing richness in one’s life, there are also obstacles along the way. Advisory aims to assist students in taking on these new roles in a secure and healthy way. It can provide a social support group in which the student can stretch, explore, and take risks. It is a forum for discussing matters such as friendship, becoming aware of stereotypes we may hold about others, and one’s changing relationship with parents.
A key outcome at the beginning of the year is for each student to feel solidly part of the Advisory group and of the grade level team. This revolves around the shared experiences that take place during the Outward Bound trips. One not only feels that one belongs to the group; one learns how to work successfully with others. These experiences will continue to be points of reference throughout the year, and will be built upon through other shared experiences: performing skits together during an assembly, taking field trips (from planning through debriefing stages); and celebrating holidays.
Advisory can also be a place where students receive specific social skills training and learn to develop good communications skills. ASP has adopted the International Counseling Standards, PK-12th grade.
As Middle Schoolers grow so rapidly, both physically and emotionally, they are likely to explore a variety of different roles and to question: Who am I? There is a gradual transition from being my parents’ child to being Me. Hence, Advisory aims to guide students in taking on genuine roles that are both healthy and fulfilling.
Part of the process of developing a clearer identity may involve a degree of doubt or uncertainty. The program aims to support the student in developing a positive self-concept. One way this is done is by assisting students in learning to identify their talents and abilities.
Another part of this process is answering the question: What do I believe in? Advisory assists students in understanding their personal values and in developing a better understanding of ethical norms. Much of this education will focus on the three key values that the ASP community strives to live by: respect, responsibility and honesty.
Our Middle School community includes people from many different cultures—languages, religions, races, ethnic groups, etc. Not only do we aim for each student to develop a sense of tolerance for those who are different, we aim for each student to explore this internationalism and learn as much as they can about similarities and connections between different cultures: to celebrate diversity. Advisory may lead students to explore a bit more about our planet’s human geography, and to engage in cultural research. The program will aim to identify and challenge cultural stereotypes.
One approach to improving this understanding is by discussing and marking certain holidays (sometimes by sharing special foods) during the year: Thanksgiving, Ramadan, the French feast of the three kings, the Scandinavian feast of Santa Lucia, etc...
In addition, there is a specific focus on helping students adjust to French culture. This is particularly important for new students at the beginning of the year.
What are the different communities to which I belong? What responsibilities do I have to these communities? These are two questions explored in Advisory. For many students, living in France will be their first experience outside their native country, and Advisory will help them understand their responsibilities as residents in this country. But the program will also assist students in understanding their broader civic responsibilities in whatever country they happen to be living in. Sometimes, this awareness will also be aroused by the discussion of current events. Apart from learning one’s civic responsibilities, Advisory seeks to lead each student to learn one’s responsibility to serve the community.
Each Advisory also elects one member to sit on the Middle School Student Council and the Advisory group gets regular reports of the Council’s discussions and plans. The Council coordinates the student- led activities throughout the year that serve both the school community as well as international charitable causes.
What does it take to be a successful student at ASP? This is a key concern for every student, particularly if one is new to the school. Advisory aims to provide the guidance students need in order to succeed.
An important part of being a successful student is becoming organized: using the Agenda effectively, organizing a locker, and learning to manage time well. In addition, students are made aware of the responsibilities the school gives them, such as making up for missed work during an absence.
Success also involves knowing your strengths and weaknesses as a learner, your own learning style and ‘what works for you’.
Advisory also involves conferencing with each student to discuss teacher evaluations such as Progress Reports and Report Cards. In addition, it is a place where students engage in reflection and self- evaluation, along with setting goals for the next term.
Advisory aims to help students understand the responsibilities they have as Middle Schoolers and to look ahead to the responsibilities they will be taking on as adults.
An important part of this is learning to make the right choices in problematic situations they may now be facing, such as confronting moral dilemmas, facing peer pressure, being encouraged to smoke or drink, etc. Students are thus given a chance to anticipate their options, role-play how they might handle these situations, and weigh the consequences of different possible responses.
The groups also explore future adult responsibilities our students will eventually have, such as managing time, money, and work. This might also include, for example, discussion of different types of careers.