School leaders are increasingly recognizing that a strong, positive school culture is key for students to experience academic and social success. How to establish that culture and build buy-in from staff and students is often less clear. The Teaching Channel has profiled several schools in the Deeper Learning Network that use an advisory period to offer students a smaller community of support and trust within the larger school.

Advisory at Envision Schools is a space to check in on how life is going, share fears and joys, and often to get reassurance that many peers are feeling similarly. While the conversation might touch on how to manage time or stress related to schoolwork, it doesn’t have to be about academics. Instead, this time allows students to “let their shoulders down,” get to know their teachers in a different way and the space to ask for help. Students practice presenting their portfolios and get feedback from peers.


At Expeditionary Learning (now known as EL Education) schools, a similar small community called “Crew” serves as a student’s family while at school. The group and teacher remain the same for several years, creating a reassuring consistency and a deep trust. The crews meet every morning for 30 minutes or an hour. During crew students set personal and academic goals, reflect on challenges and set plans for how they’ll overcome obstacles. “The public explanation of their growth as scholars is built into the day here,” said Expeditionary Learning chief academic officer Ron Berger.


Author

Katrina Schwartz

Katrina Schwartz is a journalist based in San Francisco. She's worked at KPCC public radio in LA and has reported on air and online for KQED since 2010. She's a staff writer for KQED's education blog MindShift.

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