Here in the Midwest, the beginning of the high school basketball playoffs are upon us, and the last of the potential snow days flirt with our hopes that we could earn one more unexpected, but badly needed, day off. This means only one thing—it’s time for scheduling for next year.
The debate over the value of school counselors doing scheduling is legendary. School administrators argue (generally with a wry smile) that academic planning and postsecondary planning are integral parts of a counselor’s work—and what better way to make sure those plans are on track than for counselors to meet with students to plan their schedules for next year?
It turns out there actually is a better way to do this, and that is through the advisory system. Long used with tremendous success by private schools, the advisory system is centered on a regular meeting between the adviser (usually a teacher) and about 15-18 students. These meetings occur as often as once a week, and are run using a school wide advisory curriculum, so busy teachers don’t have to find things to keep their advisees amused, and so certain school wide tasks can get done with greater efficiency—like scheduling.
Many public schools tried the advisory system about 40 years ago. Most schools called it a homeroom, and since the number of students in each homeroom was closer to 30 than 15, the success of these efforts was minimal—especially since most schools didn’t invest in a creating a schoolwide curriculum ahead of time. The end result was a well-meaning disaster.
This is where you come in. If counselors ever needed more partners in the implementation of the school counseling curriculum, it’s now. Too many kids with so many needs, combined with ever-growing administrative duties counselors were never meant to do, all spell out the need for you to take on the task of creating a support system for kids that’s more than just you. You need to shape the advisory system in your school.
This is less hard than you might believe. ASCA and other groups have armloads of resources for how to run an effective advisory—and if your administrator balks at the idea, point out these advantages:
More efficient communication Websites and emails aren’t reaching students the way they used to, and texting should be saved for special occasions. Regular advisory meetings give schools the chance for a caring adult to look at students in the eye and relay important messages, from news about prom to discussions about campus safety, with a directness administrators will delight in, and students will find refreshing.
Better academic advising More advisers working students through the nuts and bolts of scheduling in the winter—and more important, schedule changes in the fall—means your time and expertise will help students make better decisions about what to take, when to switch a class, and how it relates to the bigger picture. If a student needs to see you for a serious discussion about life after high school, you now have the time for one.
A stronger community affect Advisers and advisees can’t help but get to know each other better through the advisory system. That means one more pair of eyes and ears has the time to focus on the development and well-being of a student, since advisory isn’t about teaching—it’s about growing. A little training of teachers helps them know when a mental health professional’s skills are needed. The creation of an advisory system puts them in a position to help students access those skills at the right time.