Creating a Successful Advisory Program

Vol. 16 No. 5

head eletter vol16 no5 advisoryprogram

A key attribute of a private-independent school education is the presence of an advisory program. Families value the one-on-one attention and mentoring their child receives, providing them with the academic guidance, character education, and personal development advice they need to excel within your school.

Here are some tips for creating a successful advisory program to benefit students, families, and faculty.

Build a Mission-Based Program

Every advisory program differs in when, how, how often, and even why advisors encounter and serve their advisees. However, a trait that all effective advisory programs share is that everyone—faculty, staff, students, and parents—understands how the program connects to the school’s mission. Your school’s advisory program must be mission-driven, with every activity tied to the school’s goals for its students and community.

Provide clarity to your advisors by creating a mission statement for your advisory program that links to your school’s mission statement. Determining the mission-related rationale behind all activities enriches both group and individual advisory experiences.

Rather than simply “getting to know each other,” group activities take on new depths to stimulate student thought and elicit genuine feelings. Likewise, one-on-one interactions improve when advisors are given the tools to ask themselves, “What is the mission-based reason I’m responding to my advisee in this way?” Your advisors are much less inclined to base their guidance on their current mood or personal point of view when using the program mission as a lens.

Set Your Advisors Up for Success

It’s your job as School Head to ensure your advisors are well-prepared for the job. Include advisor responsibilities in job postings for new teachers (or administrators, if you plan on having them serve as well).

Hold biannual all-advisor meetings. Bring your whole team together to discuss top-of-mind issues, as well as school processes for reporting, communication, and more. Your advisors should understand when they’re expected to exchange information with their students’ other teachers and provide formal reports to parents.

Be clear on the following, and provide the appropriate answers to your advisors, advisees, and families.

  • What level of information will advisors share with parents of their advisees?
  • How will these disclosures vary according to the age or grade level of the student?
  • What kind of confidentiality should advisees assume when speaking with their advisors about personal matters?

This is also the time to assert limits on advisor activity. There are certain issues that go beyond the scope of an advisor’s role and abilities, and advisors should know what these issues are and how and when to share them with the appropriate person.

Finally, give your advisors guidelines for how this role ties into their ongoing professional development initiatives and faculty evaluations. Allow them to grow their knowledge and improve how they advise students; provide feedback suggesting ways they can continue to expand their skills.

Provide Adequate Resources

As School Head, ensure that advisors are given regularly scheduled time and private space to meet with their advisees, both separately and as a group. Avoid allowing advisory time to be treated as “housekeeping” time—work with your advisors to ensure it’s a vital part of the way they connect with students.

You should also ensure your advisors have access to a mental health professional. If your school does not have one in-house, such as a school psychologist, retain one as a consultant. He or she should visit your campus on a regular basis and be available for phone calls as needed.

A thriving advisory program is a powerful and distinguishing benefit that can be a compelling difference-maker to current and prospective families. Follow these guidelines to help your advisors succeed in supporting your students, resulting in an effective and long-lasting program.

Want to learn more about creating a thriving advisory program? Join our workshop at Summer Institute 2018, Hands-on Advisory: Curriculum, Themes, and Activities, in Wilmington, DE, June 19–22. Explore core concepts for focusing, enhancing, and building your advisory program so that it reflects and supports the mission of your school.

Additional ISM Resources:
The Source for Academic Leadership Vol. 7 No. 7 Quality Advisory Sets Private Schools Apart
The Source for Academic Leadership Vol. 14 No. 5 Student Mental Health and Your Advisory Program
Mission-Based Advisory: A Professional Development Manual

Additional Resources for ISM Members:
I&P Vol. 38 No. 7 Purpose and Outcome Statements: Capture the Essence of Your School
I&P Vol. 41 No. 3 10 Attributes of an ISM Model Advisory Program

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