The Advisory Program is overseen by the Coordinator of Advisory Programming and the Director of Guidance. Staff consists of sixteen faculty members from both General and Judaic studies. Advisory was created to help students explore the many issues and conflicts which early adolescents negotiate. Consolidating a sense of identity, developing peer relationships and effective communication skills,honing study techniques, feeling like part of a cohesive group and participating in community and chesed projects are just a few of the program goals.
Our program consists of three components. First, teachers selected as advisors are responsible for an advisory group of approximately fifteen students. They are encouraged to develop as warm and personal a relationship with the students as possible. Contacting the students during the summer before they start school each year, holding individual conferences, reviewing the student achievements, resolving problems as they surface and providing formal, end-of-the year feedback to parents are just some of the advisors responsibilities. They also help organize homework and prioritize academic, social and cocurricular activities.
Second, advisors meet daily with their advisory groups in homeroom where administrative matters such as attendance and announcements are addressed. In addition, homeroom activities run the gamut from students reporting on current events, celebrating birthdays, creating advisory group videos, sharing the weekly gastronomic group treat, solving brain teasers and puzzles to simply catching up before facing the rest of the school day.
Finally, we developed a comprehensive curriculum that is used during the weekly forty minute advisory period. The program is constantly being revised and is discussed with administration, teachers and advisors prior to implementation. It focuses on a wide range of psychological/emotional/practical issues such as cliques and bullying, stress and anger management, peer pressure, and community activism, such as writing letters to political representatives about the situation in Israel. Programs often begin with grade-wide presentations, such as a video or speaker, and continue with discussions, role plays, art projects and presentations in the advisory groups. The curriculum is also tailored to each grade level. For example, we help fifth graders adjust to life in the Middle School, with topics ranging from jammed lockers to dealing with a departmentalized schedule. Sixth graders discuss Bar/Bat Mitzvah, touching on topics such as responsibility, parent expectations, and proper behavior at such functions. Health issues such as sexuality and adolescent physical development are covered in seventh grade and the eighth grade learns about the physiological effects of tobacco, alcohol and drug use.
In addition, the Director and Coordinator meet with advisors weekly to stay abreast of individual and grade-wide concerns. To complete the feedback loop, the Director and Coordinator meet weekly with the Headmasters and inform them of new developments and students’ responsiveness to program innovations. Advisory/guidance transition meetings are also held with the Lower and Upper Schools to insure continuity of coverage as the student moves through Ramaz. Parents are kept informed of advisory programs and relevant psychological issues through Advisory’s newsletter, HaYoetz. In essence, the goal of Advisory is to create a warm, open and informal atmosphere where students feel they have a “significant other in the school who watches out for them.
The Director of Guidance meets with students daily. Approximately eighty percent are self-referred and twenty percent, pursuant to parents and/or teachers expressing concern about a student perceived learning or emotional issue. Once students obtain the teacher's permission, they meet with the Director at a mutually convenient time. The goal is to make the meetings as informal and easygoing as possible. Students in the Middle School visit the Director alone or often in groups and pairs and discuss a range of issues, some highly personal and others focusing on academic stressors, conflicts with peers and teachers, concerns about a friend and teachers, and family issues such as divorce and siblings. Sometimes, different clique members or best friends in a fight will drop by to resolve rivalries that are polarizing the class. The Director will also meet together with a teacher and a student to address a misunderstanding. Students are aware that confidentiality is paramount but also are made aware that extenuating circumstances may warrant parents or school staff being informed about certain issues.
As is the case with Advisory, an extensive communication network is necessary in a school between Guidance, students, parents and school staff. The Director also consults with parents (after first informing the student) and may in appropriate circumstances recommend outside assistance to address more personal issues. The Director makes every effort to remain in frequent contact with outside academic or mental health professionals. In addition, she works closely with the Director of the Learning Center to implement appropriate interventions in the Learning Center and the classroom for children with attentional and organizational difficulties and learning disabilities. The Director attends all Learning Center meetings and works closely with its staff to help structure highly individualized Learning Center sessions with students. Guidance also works hand in hand with Advisory creating curriculum, meeting with advisors, teachers and administrators. Sometimes an advisor may refer a highly sensitive issue to Guidance for more extensive focus and intervention.
Guidance and Advisory also organize several parent evenings each year. The format typically involves a lecture by an outside expert, followed by question and answer sessions and role plays. Topics have included Sibling and Other Rivalries as They Manifest in the School Setting, and The Stages of Adolescent Emotional Development.