Tuesday, April 07, 2009

MIXED GRADE ADVISORIES

While searching for our next advisory project I came across the following article written by a student from another High School.


MADDY KIEFER ‘08

Most seniors remember the mixed grade advisories that were disbanded in September 2005. Upon our promotion to the upper school in 2004, we were put in advisories with upperclassmen, which, although daunting at first, was eventually an experience that many of us appreciated. Older students provided us with all sorts of advice for surviving high school, from choosing class to prioritizing our responsibilities. Mixed grade advisories gave us the chance to hear first-hand about the stress of junior year, the complicated college process that followed, and the ultimate decision of choosing which college to attend before we had to experience it ourselves. They weren’t trying to scare us, but, rather, to prepare us. When questioned about what it was like when multiple grades were represented in his advisory, Peter Gow, the Director of College Counseling, who has been working at Beaver for over twenty years, recalls, “I remember some great examples of good advice and important lore being passed down in those meetings from older students to younger ones.” He does believe, however, that “same-grade groups can be great ways for advisors to work together on issues related to grade-level concerns.”

A year later, however, few were happy to hear that new advisories were separated by grade. Toph Tucker, a senior who was in a mixed-grade advisory until last year, says, “I know that the administration worries that older students will intimidate freshmen or some such thing, but having some representation from higher grades was one of the best things about my advisory.” Toph and I, who were both in Mr. Whitten’s advisory for three years, had such an amazing time in our mixed-grade advisory that we were furious that the incoming freshman didn’t get this opportunity. Instead, they were essentially being cut off. We knew that keeping all of the freshmen apart from upperclassmen was a mistake. The freshmen, however, considered themselves lucky. The idea of having to spend half an hour with the “big kids” every week wasn’t appealing, so there were no objections from them. When asked his opinion on being in an all freshmen advisory, Willy Tucker, Toph’s younger brother, states that he was “pretty happy” about being separated from the older students. As a reply to this comment, Toph remarks, “He just doesn’t know what he’s missing.”



[ENTIRE BLOG]

17 comments:

Lori said...

While there are obvious advantages to single grade advisories, I think the benefits of mixed grades outweighs them. Two weeks ago I had the freshmen in the library for orientation, and a senior said hello to one of my shy students. I asked how he knew her, and he replied proudly that she's in his advisory. It was like he had a big sister in school. This is the one way, since we travel in cohorts, that kids get to know kids in different grades.

As for curriculum, college prep should start in 9th grade and go through 12th, as should study skills, social skills, etc.

I don't even get how we'd do that with the way we split the seniors. Who would advise them since we all teach them? And let's say it was a random senior teacher, like me. Then I wouldn't have a 9th grade advisory like the rest of my team? Don't laugh at me, Brown, you know I can't figure out how to divide.

And though the obvious freshmen curriculum is intro, and juniors is college, what do the sophs look like?

Anyway, I like my mixed grade advisory, and I wouldn't want it any other way.

Lori

Lori said...

And another thing...

If we do inclusion, in part, because it mirrors society, there is an argument for the fact that mixed grade levels also mirror society. Schools are one of the few places where people are divided by age. We go to college and find people of different ages in our classes, and then we work with people of all different ages.
I think it's a nice opportunity for a mature freshman to hang out with a senior that might be more on the same developmental level since those levels are not always chronological.

Lori

Mr Tesler said...

At our school, we go single grade, and on the freshman team, we're single gender. Up until last year in fact, all of the advisories were single gender.

This year, our school went to mixed grade classes. It has proven to be highly successful. Our 11th grade cohort is a tough bunch, and as a grade are very challenging to teach. However, in these mixed grade classes, they do not have the audience to play to that they would as a whole group. Consequently, the classes are going much better, and the kids are performing.

If our classes are doing better with mixed grades, what's to say that mixed grade advisories wouldn't work?

Toph said...

Hi,

Glad to see you enjoyed Maddy's article. I'm very interested in this particular question, and I agree with the comments here. Lori's library anecdote is particularly familiar from my own experience.

On a sidenote, I'd just like to point out that the site you linked to is not the most recent version of our web site. We're sort of a mess at the moment, but we've been using http://thebeaverreader.wordpress.com/ lately.

Anonymous said...

I mentioned this issue to my advisory today and they were outraged. They decided to make a list of the reasons why they support mixed-grade advisories. Stay tuned.

nicholas j said...

Nicholas Jaramillo '12
I for one have benefited from mixed advisories, I am a freshman in a new school i dont know a lot about, the upper classmen have helped me understand the school a lot better. Let me tell you about a personal experience I was on the verge of failing my physics class. I was confused and didn’t understand the class that well but some one in the advisory his name is Anish and he is a senor .When I asked him for help he didn’t make fun of me he didn’t even think twice, he pulled up his chair and explained every question to me. He even helped me with the extra credit  I was happy to hear my physics teacher say “you really benefited from that extra credit.” And in my mind I thought “I really benefited from a senor in my advisory because of his help I passed.

ambiie////lysha babeszx said...

I dont agree with same grade advisories. I like coming to dear/advisoryand seeing different people than i've been seeing during my previous classes.

I remember in te beginning of the year, us freshmans had a problem with a girl who was in my adviosry. Stephanie, a sophmore girl in my class, gave a little mediation between the girl, Shanice. Shanice is another freshman in my advisory. With two freshman girls having a problem with another freshman girl, we needed Stephanie to soght the whole situation out.
After tis little discussion, we ended up being good friends, and introducing her to our friends. If we didnt have mixed advisories, we would have been acting very immature and probably made this situation escolate to something it didnt have to. This is one reason why I think we should keep mixed adviosries.

-Amber[Montessori freshman]

Anish Desai said...

Respected faculty members,
I believe that having mixed-grade advisory will prodigiously benefit Montessori. As a Montessori senior, I have experienced numerous incidents that substantiates the aforementioned notion.
One of these incidents, occured at my DEAR class, where a student needed assistance with one of the chemistry assignments. As a senior, who has taken Chemistry class, I decided to help her by explicating the concept. Consequently, the understanding that the student receieved from me helped the student answer questions that pertained to this topic.
From this example, it is apparent that mixed-grade advisory not only augments interaction amongst students of different grades but,it also, allows exchange of thoughts or ideas.
Anish Desai

QHST studet said...

dear montessori advisors,
Firt I'd like to state that personally I agree with the idea of mixed-grade advisories. However, what I’d like to address is directed towards supporters of mixed-grade advisories. If you so strongly support mixed-grade advisories at QHST, and are willing to fight for it, why not fight for mixed-grade classes.
It was previously stated, by Mr. Tesler, that the transfer to mixed-grade classes at his school “has been proven to be highly successful.” During middle school I worked very hard to set myself up for a challenge in high school, but coming to QHST I did not receive what I had worked so hard for.
I was told that even though the school offered the classes I was supposed to take, the school did not want to have a mixed grade class and put me in a class with older students. I know its off topic but I wanted to make my point. there is more than one issue regarding mixing students from different grade levels. If you have it one way, mixed grade advisory, then you should also allow mixed grade classes and give those students who are qualified the opportunity to advance and reach for highter goals. Isn't that what education should be about?

Anonymous said...

I loved mixed grade advisories. I loved the fact that I knew the kids for four years as well. We became like a family, I cried when my students graduated and still to this day six years later correspond with some of them.

I am an original memeber of this school and have experienced both mixed grade and grade level adv's.

Unfortunatly in my experience our cohort model does not mesh with mixed advisories. Mixed grade advisories and the cohort model don't work when it comes to the advisors priority goal (mine anyway). This would be "kid talk." I like the fact that our cohort can discuss our students three times a week if necassary and we can all meet with parents to discuss the students progress. This is uncommon in a NYC high school and a powerful tool to help students become more succesful in school.

When I had seniors who were in danger of not graduating in my mixed adv (a while back), I was not aware of it because I never met with any of their teachers during grade level team neetings.I also missed out on the meetings with their parents because my schedule did not mesh with the meeting time. This was frustrating because as an advisor of a student for three years I felt that I should have been part of the meeting but unfortunatly I was not part of the upper cohort team.

When we were a small school, we met with the entire team and we were able to pull this off.

I am not a fan of the cohort model either or I think that I just don't understand it and the reasoning behind it. But if you are going to meet in grade level cohorts, logically you should have grade level advisories.

How does Montessori pull this off (mixed grade kid talk)? In an ever growing building when does a montessori Advisor who meets with the ninth grade cohort discuss his or her 12th grade advisee with his or her teachers? When does this discussion happen? I know in my community, I do not see anyone except my cohort teachers or I occasionally bump into someone in an elevator or at friday lunch.

I will support grade level advisories but not with the cohort model. That being said I don't know which model would work, but dammit I am only an art teacher!!!!

Fox

Anonymous said...

Fox--

We're not as good at it as we should be...yet.
But we know that all we have to do is shoot an email to a student's advisor at our student talk meeting, and we'll be good to go. Or, in your case, fill out some type of memo template to put in the teacher's mailbox saying something to the effect of the fact we talked about your advisee and he's not making adequate progress in math, science, whatever.

Look, some of us on the freshmen team have freshmen in our advisories that we talk about at our student talk meetings, and we still haven't managed to figure out how to help them.

If we see the goal of advisory as purely academic, single grade is the way to go.

If, however, we see that as part of the goal...and the other parts social, emotional, acquainting younger kids with the norms, values, and culture of the school, making them aware of college and the future, creating a family at school with older siblings and younger siblings and a "parent" that stays with you for four years, etc., then it is on us to figure out a way to better communicate with the other grade level teams about their advisees academic success in our classrooms.

Though grade level groups makes this problem go away, the advantages that some of us see to mixed groups make it hard to give them up.

Lori

Aneesa Moore said...

If we didn't have mixed advisories one thing I would miss most would be the relationships that I have made with everyone in my advisory, especially a very close relationship with one of my best friends. Last year as a freshman I was confused with many things. For example, where to go on half days, how tell a teacher I don’t understand, and how to work through tuff problems with relationships and family members. Annie, who has become one of my best friends through advisory, really helped me overcome these problems and gave me great advice. I didn’t only make a best friend but I also made a great relationship with my advisor. A personal experience was this year when something happened to my grandma and I came into DEAR quiet. I’m usually a loud and enthusiastic kind of person so when I’m quiet you know something is wrong. So he came up to me and asked me what was bothering me. I didn’t tell him at first but as I grew quieter, he really wanted to know. I finally told him and he was very sympathetic toward me and told me it’ll be okay. Talking to him made my day a lot better because this burden was taken off of me.
Being a sophomore you travel together by class EVERYDAY with the same kids which to me is a problem because you don’t get a break from them!! My favorite day is Tuesday because two whole periods I don’t have to be with them, I get to be with my advisory. A lot of sophomores are still martyring so it’s hard to have to be with them 24.7 and if we had single grade advisories I wouldn’t want there to be advisory at all.

Anonymous said...

The concept of mixed is good , yet there needs to be a more structured approach for it to work to it's full potential. I would like to see a more defined product that could ( if desired ) be used.

Anonymous said...

With systems such as ARIS in place, an advisor should know which students, particularly seniors, are behind in meeting graduation requirements. Those seniors and others can be monitored through communication with subject teachers. It's not easy and at some point, we can only do so much, but ignorance is no excuse (nor is it bliss.)

Anonymous said...

Using systems such as ARIS, e-mailing and memo's for primary communication goes against the reason why we have small learning communities. Doesn't it? Sure these are great ways to communicate in big schools, but we have SLC's or are we just accepting the fact that we are becoming a larger NYC school?

If we are going to communicate through these particular systems why have SLC's in the first place? We might as well have cross-community classes and break cohorts. If you have a problem with a student, look up their advisor and "shoot them an e-mail". Are we really going in this direction? Three split schedules, no face to face communication, and once a month faculty meetings with your SLC, doesn't sound too "differn't by design" now does it?

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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