Advisory at Bennett Day School

As adolescents begin to establish independence from their parents, they are likely to often find themselves in conflict with, and attempting to distance themselves from, those parents. Because of that, adolescents require caring, thoughtful non-parental adults to give them guidance in both their academic and social-emotional development. Teacher/advisors become essential to the intellectual and emotional growth of learners during their high school years. The relationship between advisor and advisee can make all the difference for a young person as they take steps towards becoming an autonomous adult.

This is why advisory is the most essential part of the Bennett Day Upper School experience. The student-advisor relationship is the most important element of a Bennett Day high school education, as advisors and students work together to carry out every part of the student’s experience. Advisors are the academic and personal connection to the school for their advisees as well as those advisees’ families. From the moment a student steps on to the Bennett Day high school campus, the advisor is responsible for that student’s educational and developmental growth. As such, every Bennett Day high school teacher must consider themselves first an advisor, as this role is the teacher’s primary responsibility as a faculty member at Bennett Day Upper School.

Advisors are the link between school and family and between parent and adolescent. Playing the essential role of mentor, learning guide, and teacher, Bennett Day advisors are the most essential part of the learning experience in the Upper School. Advisory is the key to the success of the entire program, and the foundation on which the Upper School is built.

Role of the Advisor

The advisor plays numerous roles in the life of the school and community. When acting in an advisory capacity, teachers should expect to take on the following roles:

    1. Learning Coach: Each year, students are expected to fill out a Personal Learning Plan based on their Learner Diagnostic, their current competencies, and their own interests or passions. Advisors must work with each of their advisees to both insure that the choices students make satisfy the necessary competencies as well as feed student passions and help them become a more curious learner. They will work with each of their advisees to assess the advisee’s current status in relation to the competency map, speak with their advisee to plan out yearly learning goals, and assist their advisee in finding panelists to present to when making final presentations. Additionally, advisors should expect to be able to connect their advisees to learning opportunities outside the school walls and give them guidance on options that might be valuable based on their learning interests.
    2. Classroom Facilitator: Advisors will have daily classes with their advisory to advance the advisory curriculum, focusing on the theme of each year. They will consider this to be a course and prepare as such. Each year, the advisor will focus on a different theme relevant to the developmental levels of the students.
    3. Parent Liaison: The advisor is a family’s liaison to the school, and will meet several times annually with the family to discuss any issues related to their advisee’s experience, including a home visit at the beginning of each school year. Additionally, advisors will communicate with the family when any issues (academic or minor disciplinary) arise.
    4. Counseling Liaison: Advisors work with any counselors that are in contact with the student, be they college or social counselors. Advisors will work with college counselors to talk about the student’s interest and help tailor the college counseling experience to the learning profile and interests of their advisee. When it comes to social or emotional counseling, the advisor will be contacted and kept in the loop on any issues that the social worker or counselor feels are necessary and appropriate to share.
    5. Mentor: Advisors are the mentor for every one of their advisees and will work to develop a supportive relationship with each. They should consider the needs of their advisees to be top priority within the school and make sure that, when their advisees are struggling or need someone to be available for support, they make time to be a supportive mentor, offering necessary advice and/or a sympathetic ear.




Sample Trimester-Long Advisory Schedule
Prior to Week One:

Student and advisor meet for 1-2 hours. Student and advisor discuss any personal learning the student has done in the previous weeks/months and how the student will document that learning if he/she wants to apply it to his/her mastery transcript. Student and advisor then revisit Student Learning Diagnostic, discussing areas of strength or potential for growth (this should have been discussed more deeply at the end of the previous quarter) . The two then look at the Student Learning Plan, highlighting the competencies on which the student is focusing, as well as the modalities by which s/he is planning to attain those competencies, including any online learning that the student plans to do. The advisor then signs off on the Student Learning Plan and, for students new to the high school (8th-9th grade), makes sure that the student also obtains a parents’ signature on their learning plan.

Advisor meets with his/her team to plan topics and activities for advisory this quarter.

If this is the beginning of a new academic year, the advisor conducts a home visit with each of her/his advisee’s families to discuss any recent events as well as plans for the upcoming academic year.

Weeks One and Two:

Advisor conducts the first week of advisory, focusing on how the group will embody the theme of the year while also getting acquainted/re-acquainted with each other. Advisors should also ask students to begin journaling this week. During week two, advisors meet for 30 minutes with each advisee to check progress on competencies and problem-solve any issues that have arisen in the early stages of the quarter.

Weeks Three and Four:

During weeks three and four, advisors should begin asking students to take a more active role in determining the course of the advisory for the semester and year. Student routines should be developed (including activities like “Barnraising”) and students should be tasked with taking leadership roles. By weeks three and four, advisors should be regularly incorporating mindfulness techniques with advisees, both individually and as a group.

At the conclusion of week four, teacher teams should get together to discuss any advisees who may be struggling in a Project Studio or Seminar.

Weeks Five and Six

During week five, advisors should begin engaging each student on their plan for their learning exhibition. Check-ins during week six should be longer (about one hour), with students leading the meeting and the advisor spending most of the time asking questions and providing honest, frank feedback about where a student seems to be in his or her learning plan. By week six, advisors should be contacting parents with any major concerns they might have about a student’s progress. At the conclusion of the meeting, advisors should make sure the student has begun to fill out their exhibition checklist, including the people they’ve chosen for their assessment team.

Weeks Seven and Eight

By week seven, advisory should have three main purposes:

  1. Deep dives into the group’s theme
  2. Sharing, reflection, and support of each student’s learning path
  3. Engagement with other advisories in activities, games, or design projects

Individual advisee meetings during week eight can be shorter (15-20 minutes), as advisees will be working through the exhibition plan. These advisee meetings should be focused on practical necessities of the upcoming exhibitions. During week eight, advisors MUST contact advisee families if there are any concerns about student work.

Weeks Eight and Nine

Weeks eight and nine should be devoted to advisory group projects, including any service or design-related projects. These should be connected to the theme for the year, but generally be a low-responsibility activity for both students and teachers. Students should be sharing thoughts about the quarter’s Projects and Seminars, offering feedback to the teachers about the topics and procedures. During week eight, students should fill out their formal responses to the learning activities of the semester and offer their thoughts about what topics or concepts would be great to study in future quarters.

During week nine meetings, advisees should present final exhibition plans and be ready to present.

Weeks Ten and Eleven

During the final weeks of the quarter, advisees are focused mostly on their learning exhibitions. Advisory time should be spent reflecting on the learning of the entire semester, and advisors should allow time during advisory for students to support one another in their preparations for their exhibitions. Unless an emergency arises, there are no individual advisee meetings during these two weeks.

After Week Eleven

At the conclusion of each quarter (preferably as close to the learning exhibition as possible), advisors and advisees should have a final reflective conference. Students should bring their written reflections on the semester and discuss with advisors the areas of growth that they have seen in themselves. Students and advisors will fill out the necessary forms to add new competencies to the student’s transcript. During mid-year quarter breaks, this conference should also double as a planning conference for the next quarter.