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Advisory, Making Time for What We Value

Assistant Head of School Mike Earley
"Time is a created thing.  To say, ‘I don’t have time’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.'" 
-Lao Tzu. 

Individuals, families, and organizations lead busy lives these days.  The pace at which we live is clearly neither healthy nor inevitable, but we do not have time to discuss that today!
 
The nature of our current reality means that we all have to be creative and deliberate about making time for the things we most value.  That is why this year we created extended lunch periods on Wednesdays. Each week, we devote the time to one of four things on a rotating basis: group advisory meetings, individual meetings with advisors, meetings for student clubs and organizations, and extra help from teachers. 

 One of the main reasons we made this change was to provide more time for advisors to spend with advisees.  The FA advisor is the one person charged with monitoring the student’s overall progress in academic, socio-emotional, and extracurricular pursuits.  Yet, with as many as 12 advisees to manage while seeing to all of their other responsibilities, time was scarce for our faculty during the school day.  Students and parents know very well that the same is true for our students, who juggle school work with commuting, sports, music, drama, art, and other clubs and activities; that is before we consider the crazy idea of spending some time as a family!

 Due to those time pressures, we knew it would help foster more sustaining relationships if we set aside time for advisor meetings.  During the individual advisor meetings, advisors meet one-on-one with their advisees to process what is going on in the student’s life at school and to strategize about the future.  These meetings have been taking place “on the fly” for years but have sometimes been rushed and difficult to schedule. In the group advisory meetings, advisors meet with all of their advisees as a team.  The groups may have a topic for the meeting that all groups cover (earlier this year we discussed the guiding values of the school and last week we talked about the part of FA’s mission that addresses “the challenges of our times.”) On other days, they may conduct activities meant to help everyone in the group get to know each other, or they may simply relax and enjoy lunch together. 

 We created this time for our advisory because we know that a strong advisor-advisee relationship can be incredibly beneficial to the student.  We all like to know that we have people in our corner—people who will be there to support and motivate us if we need it. For adolescents, it can be especially important to have trusted and trusting adults (in addition to their parents) to whom they can turn for advice.  While we know we never take the place of parents, as the Latin phrase suggests, for hours each day we are essentially in loco parentis, and this can be a great thing for young people.  Ideally, FA students have several such adults in their lives here at school--their teachers, coaches, and directors.  Those relationships tend to grow organically, though, and so some students here have more of those connections with faculty members than others.  By assigning an advisor to each student and setting aside time for them to spend together, we hope to assure that every Falmouth Academy student has at least one adult here who knows them and is looking out for them. 

Our school was designed so that individual students would be known and nurtured.  We believe deeply in the power of that kind of personal attention, and our new schedule is, therefore, a reflection of one of our most cherished values.  We are always considering ways to enhance our advisory program, so we welcome feedback at any time.
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