Advisory is the only class at the high school which every student participates in. In response to feedback from advisers, mentors and students, history teacher and Advisory Curriculum Coordinator Jennifer Martin decided that it was time to change major parts of advisory.
According to Martin, she and a team of teachers spent part of the summer working on revising parts of advisory. The changes they made included installing a wellness program.
“We’ve trained about a dozen teachers and they are coming into junior advisories,” Martin said. “They’ll do six T-blocks in a row of mindfulness, so learning how to destress and become less anxious before tests, and it’s going to be really cool that that’s going to be now part of advisory.”
According to Martin, the program will be unveiled for the juniors this year, and will roll out into every grade as the years progress.
Spanish teacher and Mindfulness Program co-creator Elizabeth Gorman helped write the grant that brought the Mindfulness Program into being. Gorman believes many students and teachers create unhealthy stress which negatively affects their lives.
“As a teacher you are empowered to replicate this intense culture that is out there in society that says do more and achieve more, or you can create the culture of educating ourselves and students in a proactive way to be able to understand stress and the impact it has on us,” Gorman said.
According to Gorman, the constant stress many students feel led her and others to create the Mindfulness Program. One of the main goals of the program is to empower students to use the techniques they learn to help alleviate stress.
“One of the goals of the curriculum is to educate students about stress and that’s nice, except that everyone sees themselves as chronically stressed and then they’re stuck,” Gorman said. “So there are actually all these tools to teach yourself to not only identify stress, but to recover from it.”
Junior Mentor Jake Sternlicht believes that having a strong wellness program is important at the high school.
“I’ve always thought of wellness as being important, because of many of the things that I have seen at the high school,” Sternlicht said, “So, I think the changes are positive.”
Another major change that will begin this year, according to Martin, is the new way advisories deal with community service requirements.
“We’re no longer doing the one hour community service requirement and that’s going to get replaced with something that is going to happen next year, not this year, because we need some time to do it. It’s going to be morphed into no longer being, ‘You need to do this amount of community service,’ but rather that the advisories will find a community service club in the building to sponsor and help raise awareness around those issues as a group,” Martin said. “So it’s not like you go out and do something for someone else, but more of we as a group do something together to help out a club, and hopefully it will encourage kids to join community service clubs.”
The Ithaka Cup, which is an annual competition for freshmen and sophomore advisories to gain points through events and determine the winning advisory in a grade, will also undergo major changes this year, according to Martin.
“For freshmen, instead of having four tournament events, we want to do something where every freshmen comes, and it’s awesome because you see your friends from other advisories,” Martin said. “Whereas when we used to do it, you’d end up with just two advisories in a room and it’s kind of cramped. It’s not as fun as everybody together in the gym. So as of right now there will be two events for the freshmen, one each semester.”
According to Martin, the process for changing the advisory curriculum began nearly two years ago. She already had a significant amount of data compiled, and worked to get more so she could understand how to best improve the program.
“When you run something for seven years, you hear people say when they don’t like a lesson, so I have this document where I keep notes on all those things,” Martin said. “I surveyed the Junior and Senior Mentors all last year to see which lessons needed go and which ones were still good for the the 9th and 10th grade, and then I used the adviser’s opinions about what was going on in the upperclassmen advisories to figure out what we should do.”
Sternlicht thinks that the changes in the advisory curriculum will be beneficial to the program as a whole. He said that many of the topics covered in the old advisory program were also taught in middle school, and therefore became monotonous.
“I am happy about the changes because it was always hard to get kids integrated and interested in what we’re talking about because it was often repetitive and very boring because we had already done all that stuff before,” Sternlicht said. “The freshmen have seemed relatively interested in what is going on so far.”