The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

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The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

RBHS freshmen advisories receive mixed feedback

Kaden Rhodes
Unengaged students sleep and ignore instruction in freshman advisory.

Upon entering their high school career, RBHS freshmen are required to take an advisory class as a part of their first-year schedule. The block may be filled by either Advisory 9 or Advisory Plus, the latter providing a curriculum with more enrichment and focused project opportunities for accelerated students.

 RBHS Civics teacher, Austin Reed, Advisory Support and former advisory instructor, said the main goal of both advisory options is to help freshmen learn how to “do Rock Bridge,” as they transition from middle to high school and grow as students. Recently, teachers have voiced concern that the block has been losing its purpose and becoming more of a study hall than a focused course.

The advisory curriculum is structured to include orientation information for freshmen, from learning organization and study skills to joining clubs and activities and planning future course schedules, according to Reed. One struggle for advisories is keeping the yearly curriculum relevant to the incoming classes, especially since the COVID-19 remote learning years.

“In the past, we’ve sometimes had presentations that feel a little bit disjointed,” Reed said. “We want to look at everything we’re doing with a fresh lens and ask, ‘Is this really helping the freshmen?’ […] and if it’s not, let’s just [drop] it and focus on what matters.”

Another issue that has come up for advisory is scheduling staff to be instructors. According to Reed, every teacher at RBHS, regardless of subject or grade level, is required to take on a supervision block as one of their eight blocks. The two main options for that block include instructing an advisory or tutoring in the Success Center. 

This designation is based on teachers’ preference but is more often built around availability, meaning teachers who are assigned to advisories may have never had experience with freshmen and could be completely new to the advisory curriculum. Reed said that this process can put less equipped instructors in the position to guide students in topics they might not be familiar with. 

“In advisory, we don’t need teachers that are history experts or math experts or biology experts; we need kid experts,” Reed said. “In a perfect world, [we] would [look for] which [instructors] are the kid magnets, the good life coaches [and] totally relatable, and we’d [choose them].”

RBHS chemistry teacher Sarah Laster has been an advisory instructor for three years, and said she likes advisory because she can help students figure out the high school environment and be a safe person they can trust. Typically an instructor for junior and senior science courses, she said advisory gives her the chance to work with students she wouldn’t normally work with, which can be both exciting and challenging, as she is sometimes unsure of what help her students need. 

In advisory, we don’t need teachers that are history experts or math experts or biology experts; we need kid experts. In a perfect world, [we] would [look for] which [instructors] are the kid magnets, the good life coaches [and] totally relatable, and we’d [choose them].”

— Austin Reed, Advisory Support

Laster said the most useful tools to help her students have a more productive and successful block would be more training for advisory teachers, senior mentors and the students so all parties know what is expected of them. Additionally, guidance from the students’ core classes would be useful as to knowing what her students actually need assistance with.

“I think if there is common communication within the entire school and training to help make this class effective, it could be utilized a lot better,” Laster said. “It would be nice to have access to stuff to help some of these students, [for example], monthly emails from Civics, Algebra 1 and Physics [classes] on upcoming [agendas].”

Beyond the course instructors, advising can come from two or three senior mentors enrolled in the course. Reed said the role of these senior mentors is open-ended, often making it harder for their help to be effective.

“In our school, we used to have the upperclassmen set more of a tone [for underclassmen], and help the underclassmen through different means, like figuring out what it means to grow up, using their AUT time well, etc.,” Reed said. “There’s no real manual [for senior mentors] […] so some mentors thrive with that open-endedness while others need to be told what to do.”

Advisory Plus instructor James Meyer said a block like advisory is necessary for freshmen, and potentially even sophomores, so that students can use their underclassmen years to learn the expectations and freedoms at RBHS and make connections with their peers and teachers. However, these intentions can backfire if not properly structured. 

“It’s a nice opportunity to get to know students on a non-grade-related basis,” Meyer said. “On the other hand, without a grade, students don’t always take full advantage of what they are being taught, which is a shame.”

One incentive for freshmen in their advisories is earning a supervised release, similar to an Alternating Unassigned Time (AUT), usually about halfway through the school year. Meyer said this is a recent change to advisories and is a freedom earned earlier on if students keep their grades up. Using incentives like AUT for freshmen may help motivate them to better utilize their time and achieve the purposes of advisory, as it introduces them to RBHS’ motto, “freedom with responsibility,” and would help them understand the outcomes of that phrase earlier on. 

For the future of advisories, Reed said the goal is to focus the most time on the block’s original goals, rather than letting the course slip away. The main focus of advisories moving forward remains to provide a safe space for freshmen students during their transition to high school.

“We really want every kid to have one trusted adult they can go to if [they] have problems [going on] in [their] life, and [their] advisory teacher is [that person],” Reed said. “[So], the [question for advisories] is, ‘how do we build one trusted adult that we can guarantee [students] can go to for help?’”

Did you enjoy your freshmen advisory class? Let us know in the comments below. 

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About the Contributors
Ava Beary
Ava Beary, Staff Writer
Senior Ava Beary is a staff writer for SouthPaw and Bearing News. She is a member of the RBHS Cross Country, Swim and Dive, and Track & Field teams, as well as the Communications Chair for both Student Council and NHS. In her free time, she's sleeping.
Kaden Rhodes
Kaden Rhodes, Staff Photographer
Junior Kaden Rhodes is a staff photographer for Southpaw and Bearing News. He loves rock climbing, weightlifting and driving.

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