Every Monday at 10:10 AM, students pour out of their A Block classes and roll into their advisories. They exchange pleasantries with their faculty advisors, open up their laptops to register for Friday rotations, and that’s where the similarities usually end.
Each advisory has its own culture and vibe, driven by the advisor’s approach and the mix of students assigned to that advisory.
Former Head of School Jonathan Martin spearheaded the launch of St. Gregory’s advisory program in fall 2010. Since then, the school has acquired a new name, hired two new Heads of School, tried more than five daily schedules, and implemented hundreds of other changes.
But The Gregory School’s advisory program has remained remarkably consistent since its inception five years ago. Advisories serve as a home base for upper school students. Some groups organize Secret Santa holiday gift exchanges, hold monthly off-campus lunches at popular restaurants, or orchestrate birthday celebrations for advisees. In years past, advisories even organized inter-advisory sports tournaments, held sophisticated charity drives, and organized road clean-up projects.
Meant to build community and facilitate the monitoring of individual students, TGS touts its advisory system as a support system that makes the school’s small size feel even more personal and responsive.
Most students know that every advisory has its own personality. Faculty advisors tend to drive the culture, and the blend of student personalities in each advisory also shapes the advisory.
According to TGS Director of Admissions and Student Services Mary Babbitt, the administration tries to balance the number of students at each grade level in every advisory and the number of students in each advisory. Upper school students are assigned to one of seventeen advisories.
Students remain in their advisory and with their advisor for all four years of high school unless that teacher leaves the school. While students sometimes request advisories, the assignment is somewhat arbitrary.
I love my advisory and my advisor is great. My advisory loves sports.
We have quite a few student athletes and sports enthusiasts. I’m the only senior, and I don’t really follow the NFL or college football, so my interests and experiences don’t always match up perfectly.
Other advisories have their own focuses, and I know plenty of students who feel they don’t necessarily fit in with the culture of their advisory. Perhaps that is a good thing, but it’s hardly intentional.
Allowing our advisories to evolve into more focused learning and community spaces is a smart idea. In the real world, people build communities around their shared interests, experiences, and personalities. Advisories foster relationships between students in different grades, but those relationships are stronger if students share the same interests.
An updated advisory system begins with giving students more direct choices about which advisory they join and allowing each advisory to focus on something specific.
Then we could have a true sports advisory, a literature advisory, a science advisory, a politics advisory, or whatever other concepts faculty, administrators, and students propose.
Advisees would connect with each other on a deeper level from their first day of high school to their graduation day.
The Gregory School administration should also reconsider the single-sex makeup of the upper school advisories. Before 2010, students would stroll into a homeroom—albeit sometimes late—and begin their day with their community, which included students of both genders.
I personally preferred the mixed-gender homerooms to the quasi-segregation we have today. Others may disagree, and the community should welcome a debate on the merits of separating students by their gender.
Change has come to nearly every other part of our school. Now it’s time to explore and discuss how we can make our advisory program even stronger for the next five years.
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