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Middle School Advisories

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Middle School Advisories Franciscan University By Emma Starre

Middle School Advisories

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Without advisory school would be more distant. It would not be as cheerful. We would not be as connected to everybody, noted a seventh grade girl when asked the benefits of advisory (Shulkind and Foote 2009, p. 20). For most students, school is not their favorite thing. It is a very long day if the student does not feel connected or that they belong. Especially in the middle school years when the students are insecure, knowing that they have somewhere to go and someone to talk to who really cares about them is very important. Advisories can provide a warm, nurturing environment along with a bit of fun and games, if they are orchestrated correctly. Undoubtedly, advisories have numerous benefits that can significantly alter a students life for the better. Of course every school has their own recipe for instruction; those that have the ingredient of advisory are like a dish that is both healthy and delicious. Advisory adds both a bit of brain freedom from the mental exertion of school and a chance for the students to be understood, listened to and loved. One student commented on what constitutes a good advisor saying, having someone notice you-notice you are having a bad day (Shulkind and Foote 2009, p.23). Too many times in life, people feel that they are not needed or valued. I wish I had never been born, is the famous line from the movie Its a Wonderful Life. This is a horrible lie that may be penetrating the mind of any young adolescent every day. Educators may be the only positive, adult influence in a students life and having a time to really connect with the students is of highest importance. Once the student trusts the advisor, the next level of social interaction will occur more smoothly: breaking down the cliques and social barriers. The effort of school communities to build strong relationships is a worthwhile endeavor (Rappaport 2002, p.123). Through mentors

Middle School Advisories and advisory, students can be introduced to others who they might have never even acknowledged in the past.

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Making a conscious effort to help students get to know peers with whom they seem to have little in common may help students expand their social networks and alleviate some of the stereotyping that cliques seem to promote (Weilbacher and Lanier 2012, p. 23). Middle school is filled with drama, low self-esteem and peer pressure to fit in. However it is a part of growing up, but perhaps through advisories these issues can be reduced. The advisor can lead the group in trust games and teamwork activities that will help the students get to know each other and build a sense of family and community (Shulkind and Foote 2009, p. 22). With at least one teacher who makes the student feel that they belong and some new friends, middle school is not as daunting and terrible as it might be portrayed. Respecting others is a value that can be learned from making new friends and being exposed to people who are different than ones usual circle of friendships. Values are precious and sometimes hidden in todays world. During the school day, there is not a lot of time to cultivate values and character development. This is an area that the American population as a whole, sometimes lacks. They are too concerned with themselves that they overlook others in need. Respecting and being considerate of others are two important values that middle school students can learn to become better adults. Education is also about life, citizenship and the values associated with being a good person (McCaffrey 2008, p. 22). Educating the whole child is being embraced across the country and values fall under that umbrella as well. An easy and enticing way to bring character development into advisory is using a product called Film Clips. Film Clips for Character Education are episodes from more than 50 popular films such as Shrek, Chariots of

Middle School Advisories

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Fire, Bridge to Terabithia and Charlottes Web that deal with various traits like sportsmanship, respect, loyalty and honor, and issues like understanding bullies and facing peer pressure (McCarthy 2008, p. 23). This is a great way to keep students engaged- all kids like movies-but also a way to approach this subject in a less direct and annoying way. A program like this does not seem too difficult to recreate if there is no extra funding. Any way that character development is discussed during advisory will be well worth the time as one is building strong and kind individuals. Academic support is another honorable attribute of advisories. Students are able to view their academic process and have a teacher review their work during advisory, while also having time for academic review on a weekly basis (Shulkind and Foote 2009, p. 24). Sometimes students just need a little motivation or guidance to complete their homework. As the advisor, offering support for the students has been found to increase the students motivation and academic successes (Rappaport 2002, p. 110). Advisories are also a great place to review for tests with fellow students. Studying in groups can also bring about new friendships and the very useful teamwork experience. Advisories are also used as an extension of homeroom activities where school related issues can be discussed, such as student council, while home sporting events or other activities can be advertised and promoted (George and Alexander 2003, p. 275). If the advisors initiate the school activities with excitement then the school spirit will grow and provide the students with extra-curricular activities that help form a sense of community. In order for an advisory to succeed and be capable of implementing some of the benefits discussed, there are some major factors that must be actively engaged. First strong leadership is crucial to obtaining an effective advisory program. Without a leader who champions the cause and tenaciously works through obstacles and logistics, an effective advisory in a public school

Middle School Advisories

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is challenging to create due to lack of funding and a tight state regulated schedule (Rappaport 2002, p.114). If advisories are to work, then much time and effort must be put forth. Advisory is all about how the students can get the most out of school and it is the responsibility of the staff to properly prepare an advisory program if it is to be successful. According to researchers, the school leadership should spend at least six months in preparation to provide the teachers with resources, an overview of their increased responsibilities and any advising classes or seminars that will be needed to successfully mentor young adolescents (Rappaport 2002, p. 116). The effort will be worthwhile when the students are connected to each other and the school community. In the end, advisory programs are worth the time and effort that it takes to overcome the challenges. New friendships are formed between the students and their advisor and also with their peers. Advisories fuel the motivation that is needed to accomplish schoolwork, through group study and the advisors support. Not only do the advisors provide academic support but also emotional support, which is definitely teaching the whole child. With having an advisor who truly cares and listens, students can experience the feeling of belonging and love, which are sometimes sadly absent from their home life. The security of knowing that someone is always there for you is priceless and with this confidence, goals, dreams and highest potentials can be reached.

Middle School Advisories References

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George, P. Alexander, W. (2003). The exemplary middle school. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/ Thompson Learning. McCaffrey K. Creating an Advisory Program Using Hollywood Film Clips to Promote Character Development. Middle School Journal. November 2008:21, 25. Available from: Education Research Complete, Ipswich, MA. Rappaport N. Can advising lead to meaningful relationships? New Directions for Youth Development. Spring2002 2002; 2002(93):109-125. Available from: Academic Search Complete, Ipswich, MA. Shulkind S, Foote J. Creating a Culture of Connectedness through Middle School Advisory Programs. Middle School Journal. September 2009; 41(1):20-27. Available from: Education Research Complete, Ipswich, MA. Weilbacher G, Lanier J. AN EXAMINATION OF A GENDER-SEPARATE ADVISORY PROGRAM. Middle Grades Research Journal. Spring2012 2012; 7(1):17 35. Available from: Education Research Complete, Ipswich, MA...