For middle school students, the social and emotional side of learning is equally as important as academics. Severn’s advisory program is an important part of teaching the whole child. The program is a living, breathing part of our curriculum and as the needs of our students and community grow, we intentionally change to meet those needs. Over the past several years, the program has evolved in scope and depth. And this year, it all comes together with a new schedule that gives our students exactly what they need, exactly when they need it.
Building Continuity into the Curriculum
Our Middle School administration and faculty are always looking for ways to improve — advisory is no exception. Last year, Advisory Coordinator Ms. Laura Drossner worked with Middle School Guidance Counselor Ms. Mary Foard and Middle School Head Mr. Dan Keller on a plan to grow the curricular element of advisory. They wanted to make better use of this dedicated time with students, in peer groups with which they are comfortable, to really dive into relationships with technology with a focus on personal wellness.
Based on independent research and resources from Common Sense Media, Ms. Drossner and Ms. Foard developed year-long digital citizenship curriculum to explore topics including:
Unpacking Severn’s AUP (acceptable use policy). Students explored each section of the policy and discussed why it’s important to understand any digital document before signing.
Self-image and identity. Using information from their social media profiles and Google, students explored how someone would perceive them based only on that information. They reflected on their own online personas but also that of their friends.
"Returning to one concept repeatedly throughout the year gives advisory lessons meaning and purpose; it provides continuity. 6th, 7th and 8th graders talk about the same topics, but the content is developmentally appropriate for their age group. They really get something out of it. These topics are things they deal with every day.” — Ms. Drossner
This year, Ms. Drossner is taking elements from last year's model to continue purposeful instruction during advisory. So far lessons include:
Unpacking the AUP
How to use your planner most effectively
The Right Time for the Right Growth
Mr. Keller, Ms. Drossner and the Middle School faculty recognized the value in this more structured curriculum, but also saw a need to change the format of the program. 6th, 7th and 8th-grade students need advisory time for purposeful instruction, but they also need time to work on daily executive functioning skills. And they need time to socialize with one another in groups outside of their normal circles. It’s about learning how to be contributing members of our community and get the most out of their time in our Middle School.
Middle schoolers now have advisory every morning from 8:00-8:15 with an additional 45-minute working session once a week. During the morning meetings, students organize for the day — check-in with their advisors about homework and grades, review their planners, and hear announcements. Our faculty advisors give them the support they need to approach every day with confidence and our students know they can count on them for help.
“It’s deeply important to have time built into the schedule for our faculty to relate to students. Every child should have a very positive, non-academic relationship with an adult on campus. And at the same time, it’s important for the advisors to know when to take a step back and let their advisees create social bonds with students they may not normally spend time with. We know and value our students and we are teaching them to do the same with their peers.” — Mr. Keller
The longer sessions are dedicated to active learning time while also helping students develop relationships through interactive, cooperative activities. It’s a mix of explicit character and service learning lessons like the digital citizenship curriculum, with fun community projects like the upcoming holiday door decorating contest and our annual SPAN gift drive for families in need.
These changes to the program are the result of deliberate research and discussion among all of our Middle School faculty. Our goal is to give students the best possible basis of trust, support and belonging so they can use their energy to focus on studies throughout each school day.