Advisories forcing connections

Genuine relationships are built on authenticity and mutual interests. I am doubtful that the advisory program, implemented by the administration for the upcoming school year, will effectively foster these types of relationships between students and advisors.

One of the factors cited as a reason for the advisory program is the belief that some students don’t have strong ties with the school outside of their academic classes and, therefore, don’t have a trusted adult in the High School who they feel close to.

I wholeheartedly believe that the intention of the advisory system is positive in trying to make every student feel as connected to our community as possible. Students should have at least one adult in the building with whom they feel comfortable confiding in, seeking help from or initiating conversation with. However, I believe that there are already numerous opportunities for students to connect with adults at the school. Many students maintain relationships with their sports coaches, adult club sponsors or the advisors of their extracurricular activities.

Personally, I have found that participating in extracurricular programs is a fantastic way to build relationships with adults in the ASL community. For instance, I have maintained a strong relationship with my track and field coach ever since last Spring season. The main reason why I am close with him isn’t just because we are together at training day in and day out; it is because we both choose to be there. We have made a commitment to the team and we have a mutual love for the sport. I believe that this increases the trust and respect we have for one another.

This is where I see a flaw in the advisory model, and where it starkly contrasts from the student-adult relationships formed in extracurricular activities. Advisory will be mandatory for every student and adult advisor, whereas sports and other extracurriculars are not. I feel that players are able to form strong relationships with their coaches because they have both a shared interest in the sport and have chosen to participate.

I fear the advisory program will be an attempt to force students to connect with adults through superficial activities, instead of allowing relationships to form naturally,  upon common interests. I believe that students can find closer ties within the school community if they’re encouraged to participate in extracurricular activities, instead of being assigned an advisor, in whom they’re expected to find a trusted adult. It is in no way guaranteed that students will be fond of their advisor, let alone connect with him or her to build a strong relationship.

Yes, advisory will give students another opportunity to become closer to adults in the school and I remain optimistic that I am able to form a close relationship with my advisor next school year. However, there are already so many adults in students’ academic and extracurricular lives. I acknowledge that there are students who don’t feel that they have a trusted adult within the school, however we should be focusing on leading them to pursue extracurriculars to build active connections with adults.

Additionally, I am concerned that the curriculum for the advisory program will include many trivial activities, such as continuous goal setting. Personally, I am not driven by the goals that I’ve been forced to make within classroom situations, such as in Health or Foundations classes.

However, I do acknowledge that this is one opinion and other students may benefit immensely from it. I want an advisory program that caters to every student: One that doesn’t have a strict curriculum. For example, I would love if current events were addressed in advisory. This would show the flexibility of the program, and be increasingly informative. Advisors who listen to their students and create a flexible program that suits them will gain heightened respect and appreciation, over advisors who attempt to force students into activities that neither themselves nor the students are benefitting from.

If it is mandatory for me to attend advisory, I believe I should be getting something tangible out of it. With the demise of the Foundations program after this school year, I stress that the curriculum of the advisory program should not closely align with that of the Foundations program. Far too often, I found myself doing busywork in my Grade 9 Foundations class; I felt that the entire 80 minutes wasn’t consistently productive or beneficial. Although the intent of the program was postitive in working to bring students together, many of the class’ activities felt forced, such as the seemingly endless “teambuilding” exercises we did. I struggled to find productivity in being tangled together in a human knot and working to untie ourselves.

The administration can look to the structure of the Foundations program when shaping the advisory program for next year.

It’s imperative that both the advisor and the students are motivated and excited by the activities and the material covered in advisory. This is why I will remain open-minded about the advisory program. However, if I walk into my advisory in August and am told to stand in a circle, grab the hands of the people across from me and then work to unknot myself, I will be extremely disappointed.