In the MVHS perspective
Examining the perspectives on potentially adding an advisory period
With the addition of a third tutorial, members of the MVHS Leadership Team tossed around the idea of adding an advisory period last spring— perhaps as an extension of second period or as an option for freshmen-only work with a set of volunteer teachers. The purpose was twofold: to build in time for direct instruction in social emotional well-being and to increase the number of students who feel that they have a positive relationship with at least one adult on campus.
Journalism advisor, English teacher and Leadership Team member Julia Satterthwaite has been active in this discussion and advocates for advisory as a possible solution to the mental health obstacles that students often undergo. However, Satterthwaite thought it was important to hear from the students to see if they’d be interested, so she developed a student survey that nearly 600 MVHS students took.
“One of our goals was to sort of see how we were doing on some of the initiatives we were working on throughout the year. One was stabilizing student stress, another was building positive relationships with students. So that’s where the survey kind of came into play,” Satterthwaite said. “We were really trying to gather data about how to best use tutorial time.”
The results were clear: MVHS students were not interested in adding an advisory, even with an added tutorial. Fifty six percent of 580 student respondents said they’d never be interested in an advisory, 19 percent said they’d be interested if it were once a month, 16 percent if it were once a grading period and 10 percent if it were once a week.
If 45 percent are interested in some capacity, Satterthwaite feels that implementing an occasional advisory period could address the 14 percent of survey respondents who say that they don’t have a trusted adult on campus who they could talk to. Part of that demographic is sophomore Anusha Adira, who expresses that she isn’t close with any of her teachers or counselors due to unfixable boundaries.
“It’s really hard to build relationships with teachers and if you had a trusted teacher on campus to go to for problems that aren’t really related to school, that would be nice,” Adira said. “I just don’t use tutorial or anything to see any of my teachers like I used to, so I don’t get to talk to them much. You only see them in a school setting and not really outside so it’s pretty hard to build relationships with them. You can’t really change that.”
Sophomore Kyle Ralston is one of the 86 percent of students surveyed who do have a trusted adult on campus but believes the element of out of class interactions in marching band to be the cause behind the “strong bond” he says he has with his band director Ricky Alegria.
“I think just spending time and talking to him, not just during class, but sometimes I hang out there after school and just talk to him about stuff,” Ralston said. “Also, being in marching band that just adds a lot of extra time spent with him in his class. I think that since it’s not a class, it’s sort of a different relationship and a different interaction.”
Based on these types of anecdotes, Satterthwaite believes an advisory period could be beneficial. A more structured period dedicated to the focus of the student’s social emotional well-being could also help reduce student stress.
However, some students oppose the idea of an advisory period, arguing that tutorial is the only time of day they can use to catch up on things they missed, talk to teachers, socialize and stay on top of things. Senior Anisha Sinha presumes that if a tutorial is taken away, it will thwart the goals of the Leadership Team.
“I think three [tutorials] can be really helpful especially for dividing your time for trying to get done with your academic work and trying to form those relationships with your teachers,” Sinha said. “Tutorials are not just a time to cram the homework that you haven’t done or study for tests, although those are the original intents. I’ve used it in the past just to wind down and destress for myself. Which I don’t think would be possible with an advisory.”
Another aspect of the survey addressed how students use tutorial time, with the highest percentage of students, 22 percent, using their tutorial time to complete homework or study and 16 percent to socialize with friends.
“We asked about self organized learning because tutorial is basically self organized learning, and the research says that its effective for 60 percent to 65 percent of the students,” Satterthwaite said. “So then for the other students, we were trying to figure out how we can help them. One of our observations about tutorial time is that not everyone uses their time effectively. So we were trying to see if there was something we could do or some structures we could build in place to support the students.”
For now, MVHS’ schedule and tutorials will be left untouched, but Satterthwaite says she will continue to bring advisory into discussions in hopes to implement it one day.
“Pretty much anytime you add a new thing that students are required to go to, they will tell you they don’t want to do it and they don’t even know if it’s good,” Satterthwaite said. “I think it’s worth trying it, even if it’s in small chunks.”