Advisory is a cornerstone of our program. Based on concepts of mentoring and coaching, teachers form strong relationships for a full school year with their advisees. Intentionally non-clinical, advisors are teaching faculty who help their cohorts make effective use of Stevenson’s supports and opportunities. Students start each day with a 15-minute check-in, end with a check-out, and meet midday to work cooperatively on a given topic. No other school provides this level of daily advisory support.
This unprecedented level of communication also extends to families: parents receive a weekly written report from the student’s advisor.
Advisors, who are all classroom teachers, perform an essential function crucial to the success of Stevenson students. They meet with their advisees three times daily, both in groups and individually. Students receive help to cope with school-related pressures, including attendance, punctuality, academic matters, behavior, feelings, and peer relationships, as well as issues that arise at home and in the community. Additional contacts take place to address difficulties students may be facing in their academic, social, or personal lives. Rather than shielding the students from demands or expectations they might prefer to avoid, advisors help students to face these realities. As such, students are helped not only to succeed academically, but also to develop dependable coping abilities for the various challenges of adolescence and beyond. Through the frequent interactions, advisors become a key factor in the emotional development each student needs to succeed in life’s varied experiences.
Advising groups are small, averaging eight students, and are formed based on our knowledge of students’ psycho-social profiles. The fit with the personality of a particular advisor, who is well-suited to serve student needs, is also considered. While the head advisor is the lead contact with the students, a second faculty or staff member serves as a backup advisor to ensure continuity and to keep things running smoothly. The interpersonal composition of a group is also taken into consideration. We aim to create groups that are supportive and cultivate a sense of belonging.
With the close guidance of their advisors, students learn to set realistic, attainable goals. They are given opportunities to try again and again without being labeled as failures and without feelings of defeat. We expect progress to be made in incremental, sometimes uneven steps (though at times surges forward do occur, and we’re there to reinforce them when they do!).