More than just attendance

Advisory needs amending

When schedules are released over the summer, every sophomore is excited and nervous to discover who their adviser will be for the rest of high school. It is a comfort for students to know that a teacher will be there specifically to support them academically and emotionally for the rest of their time at Trinity. But more often than not, adviser-student relationships never blossom into the support systems they were intended to be. Instead, students often find themselves paired with advisers they do not know or with whom all interactions feel forced.

If this is the case, students may not feel comfortable enough with their advisers to rely on them for support. Many students are much more likely to seek advice from teachers who have taught them and understand them as students than their adviser, who they only interact with for five minutes at the beginning of the day. It’s a shame to see such a well-intended program never meet expectations, but we can salvage our advisory system. Having included “Student Life and Well-Being” as a major section of Trinity’s newly announced Strategic Plan, the time is ripe to enact change.

First, Trinity can improve advisory by making sure advisers and their advisees are compatible. Before sophomore classes are placed in their advisories, barely any of the students know which teachers are in the pool of potential advisers. Students should have an opportunity to meet their possible advisers before advisory groups are created so their adviser will be a familiar face.

If all senior advisers introduced themselves in front of the freshman class toward the end of each school year, it would be easy for freshmen to look forward to being paired into their advisories. After this meeting, freshmen could list the advisers they think they would be most compatible with, and their opinions could be taken into account when advisory groups are created. This would greatly impact how students interact with their advisers: the more comfortable students are with their advisor, the more effective Trinity’s advisory program is likely to be.

Once students matriculate into their advisories, Trinity offers opportunities for teachers and students to bond with each other: the Canterbury field trip dedicates a day to fun activities, and assigned classroom activities help guide discussion. But generally, these activities result in surface-level relationships between advisers and advisees.

This is not to say that every student should develop a deep relationship with his or her advisor—not everyone wants that. Regardless, there should be opportunities for deeper relationships to form. Most (if not all) discussions students have with their advisers are in front of the entire advisory, which deters many from sharing information about themselves that would help advisers understand their advisees’ academic problems.

Students may not want to tell their whole advisory about their extended time, their bouts of anxiety or depression or the stress that stems from their home lives—but they may want an adult on campus to know. Advisory should allow advisers and advisees to have private one-on-one discussions where personal information can be shared so advisers can better understand their students. Though the program means for this to happen, the structure of advisory does not leave much time for these meetings to occur. Regardless, advisers should reach out to their advisees and encourage them to set up private meetings if they would like them.

Finally, Trinity should train teachers how to conduct advisory. At times, advisory is awkward for teachers and students alike if neither has anything to say. Similarly, if discussions are approached from the wrong angles, the conversation that follows might not be meaningful. Advisory is used as a platform to discuss serious issues like drugs, peer pressure and mental health. For some students, advisory may be the only place where they can participate in discussions about these sensitive issues, so it’s essential that the discussions be worthwhile. If Trinity gave teachers tips on how to approach topics and facilitate conversation, they might help even the most confident advisers improve.

None of this is to say that advisory is an ineffective program. Some students have truly benefited from their advisers’ advice. But the system is not without its problems. If Trinity addressed these issues, advisory could become a better way to start the day.