students collaboratingWriting advisement curriculum for high school has been a priority for my time over the past few months. The content includes one lesson per week, for every week of the school year. Each grade level 9-12 receive a different lesson – one that intentionally builds upon previous content.  We complete weekly site visits to see the curriculum in action with the intention of learning for ourselves the strengths and weaknesses of the content, while also evaluating the engagement of the students with the purposely built student-centered content. With this additional information, we can also model or coach teachers to manage a student centered environment with small group activities if this is a unfamiliar setting.

From our brief experience thus far, we have learned the following:

  1. When schedules are tight, Advisement is the first “class” to be cut or interrupted.
  2. Advisement hours are often used as a study hall, social experience, or nap time.
  3. Any required content and resources must be 100% complete so that no planning or prep is required since “Advisement” is not the teacher’s area of specialty.
  4. Teachers must be committed to teach the provided lessons because they believe and know that for many students, without it, they will not be prepared for life beyond high school.
  5. The students must understand that Advisement is a class and there is much to be learned during this time.

My greatest challenge through this experience is rooted in what I believe to be a lack of confidence by the teachers in the students. The project was originally a result of  a school improvement grant  in a failing school. Upon our first visit, it was obvious to me why this was a failing school. The traits included, but certainly not limited to, a lack of any school or staff sense of community,  a significantly low graduation rate impeded by poor student attitude and a low level of respect for education, and even a lack of professionalism by the staff.

I am not naive enough to think that a quality Advisement curriculum would all of a sudden turn around the school, but I am hopeful that bit by bit, it will make a difference. There is hope the kids will realize there is a day coming when they will be solely responsible for themselves and their livelihood. With proper planning, dedication, and perseverance, they can achieve their dreams. In other words, it is in our design that they will begin to believe in themselves and their ability to achieve.

However, in order for that to happen, the teachers need to believe not only in the value of the curriculum content, but in the kids and their abilities. The standards need to be raised – for attendance, achievement, and engagement. In my own classroom experience, I set very high expectations and always found that the students will rise to it. The overachievers will always surpass, but the goal was to get as many as possible beyond the basics. Even if the content is not your area of specialty, it is designed to be a collaborative, stimulating class with real world application and includes the integration of technology. Challenging kids, especially low performing teens, can seem to be insurmountable task at times. However, these kids, our communities, and our nation, deserve educators who are committed to the challenge because they strive to make a difference in the future of these young adults.

There is plenty more writing and fine tuning to be done for this project, so I would love for you to share your suggestions for content that should be addressed during this valuable time.  Please consider life skills, soft skills, and even study skills.  Thank you!