Guest post.

Relationships in Education

All too often, our schools are focused on metrics of academic performance and based on standardized test scores. Because of this, the significance of interpersonal relationships in shaping a student’s academic and personal trajectory often doesn’t receive the attention it deserves. The advisory model in education, emphasizing the cultivation of meaningful connections between students and educators, offers a comprehensive strategy to bridge this gap. This blog aims to shed light on the importance of these relationships and the instrumental role of the advisory model in nurturing them.

Relationships in education are multifaceted and encompass a range of interactions and bonds that students form with their teachers, peers, and the broader school community. These relationships are not merely a side-product of the educational process but rather are central to it. They provide the emotional, social, and academic scaffolding that supports student learning and well-being. The advisory model, with its emphasis on one-on-one interactions and small group dynamics, is particularly effective in fostering these connections, offering a nuanced approach that tailors education to individual student needs.

Unveiling the Advisory Model

The advisory model can be viewed as a progressive educational approach that prioritizes small, consistent group meetings between students and their assigned advisor(s). This model differs significantly from traditional educational methods, which often solely focus on large classroom settings and standardized instruction. The advisory model’s methodology is centered around the belief that personalized, ongoing support is key to student success.

Advisors in this model act as mentors, guiding students through both academic and personal challenges. Regular meetings between advisors and students ensure that each student receives individual attention and that their evolving needs are promptly addressed.

The Emotional Cornerstone: Support for Students

Adolescence is a critical developmental stage marked by significant physical, emotional, and intellectual changes. It is a time when students are navigating complex social dynamics, exploring their identities, and facing academic pressures. Emotional support during this period is not just beneficial. It is essential. Advisors in the educational setting act as pivotal figures, offering guidance, understanding, and a stable presence in the fluctuating landscape of a teenager’s life.

The advisory model places significant emphasis on the emotional well-being of students. In an advisory model that is coupled with strong professional development and strong community support, advisors can be trained to recognize the signs of emotional distress, provide empathetic support, and guide students toward appropriate resources. This support goes beyond academic concerns, encompassing broader life challenges that students may face.

For instance, consider a student dealing with anxiety over college applications or struggling with family issues. In a traditional educational model, these concerns might go unnoticed or deferred to counselors with large caseloads. However, in the advisory model, an advisor, often a homeroom teacher, has more opportunities to recognize these stressors and provide the necessary support, especially if trained to do so.

Such an emphasis on emotional support, as provided through the advisory model, helps in creating a school environment where students feel safe, valued, and understood. This sense of belonging is critical for emotional development and can have a direct impact on academic engagement and success. When students feel emotionally secure, they are often more open to learning, more willing to take intellectual risks, and more engaged in the educational process.

Academic Success Through Relationships

The impact of strong student-advisor relationships can pay dividends toward a student’s academic achievement. There is a growing body of research suggesting that when students feel connected to an adult in the school setting, they are more likely to achieve academically. This connection fosters a sense of accountability and motivation in students, encouraging them to strive for their best.

In the advisory model, advisors play a critical role in guiding students through their academic journey. They can help students set realistic goals, develop effective study strategies, and navigate academic challenges. This personalized attention ensures that students are not just passively receiving information but actively engaged with their learning process.

For example, an advisor might notice a student struggling in a particular subject and intervene with strategies tailored to that student’s learning style. This could involve one-on-one tutoring, setting up peer study groups, or providing additional resources. By addressing academic challenges early and in a personalized manner, the advisory model can help prevent students from falling behind and promote a culture of proactive learning.

Personal Growth Beyond the Classroom

The advisory model’s influence extends far beyond academic advice; it plays a critical role in guiding students in their personal growth and development. Advisors can help students develop essential life skills such as time management, decision-making, and problem-solving. These skills are not only crucial for academic success but are foundational for personal and professional success in life.

The advisory model can also provide a structured approach to character development. Advisors often engage students in discussions about ethical dilemmas, societal issues, and personal values. These conversations, which can be lacking in other school settings, can help students develop a well-rounded perspective on the world and their place within it. They can better learn to think critically, empathize with others, and make informed decisions. This empowerment is crucial for developing self-confidence and resilience, skills that are invaluable in navigating the challenges of adulthood.

Advisory Case Study

As an educator myself, I have seen firsthand how the above implications for relationship building within an advisory period have come to fruition.

Emma (pseudonym) was a high school freshman who demonstrated a love for organization and leadership, but she lacked a platform to showcase these skills, and a strong peer network to help her navigate our organization so she could make her visions a reality. That changed when she enrolled in my advisory class, which was specifically geared towards student leadership and event planning as part of the Associated Student Body (ASB) at our school.

During advisory class, Emma and her peers were tasked with organizing school events, ranging from fundraisers to pep rallies. Initially, Emma felt overwhelmed by the responsibility and seemed shy. However, as the year progressed, I noticed that due to the different structure of advisory, Emma began to build a strong peer network composed of other freshmen as well as upperclassmen. With this encouragement, Emma began to step into her role with more confidence. I noticed her begin to sign up for more committees and offer to help co-lead and eventually lead events.

She discovered her talent for communication and her ability to bring people together towards a common goal. The planning process wasn’t always smooth; there were budget constraints and differing opinions. However, Emma learned to navigate these challenges, often using the advisory period to discuss strategies and seek advice from myself and others. I recall many times sitting down with Emma and her committee to help guide them and give feedback on their ideas. It was the structure of Advisory that allowed both Emma and myself to have these opportunities.

By the time she was a Junior herself, she was a respected leader in her school, known for her ability to listen, lead, and inspire. Emma’s experience in the advisory class was transformative. It wasn’t just about planning events; it was about growing as a leader and as a person. It was about setting and achieving goals. It was about relationship building and learning how to leverage those relationships for personal and organizational success.

The relationships she built and the skills she developed went beyond the school’s walls, preparing her for future challenges and successes. I ended up writing one of Emma’s letters of recommendation for college based on her above experiences. The advisory class became a defining part of her high school experience, shaping her into a confident, capable, and connected leader. Her community also benefited from the structure of the advisory model.

Conclusion: A Transformative Approach to Education

The advisory model represents a transformative approach in education, one that understands and leverages the power of relationships to enhance student development. By focusing on emotional support, academic guidance, and personal growth, the advisory model can prepare students for more than just academic success; it can prepare them for life.

As education continues to evolve, the importance of the human element in learning and development cannot be overstated. The advisory model highlights this by showing how meaningful relationships and personalized support can significantly impact a student’s educational journey. It is a model that goes beyond the traditional focus on academic achievement, advocating for a more holistic approach to student development.

As such, the advisory model stands out as an innovative, effective approach to education. It prioritizes the well-being and development of each student, ensuring that they are equipped not only with academic knowledge but also with the emotional and social skills necessary for a fulfilling and successful life.

Dr. Anthoney Roe
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Anthoney Roe graduated from USC's Rossier School of Education with an M.A. in Teaching and an EdD in Organizational Change and Leadership. Anthoney holds various certificates and credentials, including a Multiple Subject Credential, a Single Subject Credential in History, an Administrator Credential, A Google Educator Certificate, A GLAD Certificate, an ESL Certificate, and an AVID Certificate. He has taught at all three levels of primary, middle, and secondary education. In addition to serving as an assistant principal in high school and a principal in elementary school, Anthoney has directed several Galileo Learning programs in the Bay Area and Los Angeles (Palos Verdes). He is trained in specific curriculum models such as UDL, UbD, PBL, Taba, and Tyler and instructional models such as ADDIE, SAM, and Gagne’s 9 Events of Instruction. His pedagogy also brings in elements of GLAD, AVID, Step Up to Writing, and Icons of Complexity to help students become better readers and writers. When Anthoney isn't leading a school site, writing for others, or supporting abroad, he can be found working on his urban homestead, trying to find the perfect balance of nitrogen and carbon for his composting efforts.