More than a decade ago, educators at Colchester High School, inspired by knowledge gained at a BEST conference (Building Effective Support for Teaching Students with Behavioral Challenges), developed and implemented a teacher advisory (TA) program. While the TA program was initially largely influenced by the A World of Difference curriculum, over time, it has transformed into one with the broader mission of mentoring students while fostering a sense of community. Specifically, by providing every student with at least one meaningful connection with an adult at the school, the goals of the TA program are defined as follows:
* Community Building: Developing positive relationships that foster pride, responsibility, and a desire to become contributing citizens by performing leadership service to the school and the greater community
* Mentoring: Providing guidance to students as they navigate transitions and challenges that they encounter at the various developmental stages of their high school career
By design, the TA program is not overly complex, and because it is not an academic class, it is not graded and does not require homework. Rather, the idea is to encourage the students to assume responsibility for charting the course of their lives beyond high school through such activities as researching potential career interests and what is required to pursue those interests. Groups are intentionally kept small—approximately 10–12 on average—and they currently meet twice a week, engaging in a number of scheduled service activities. The first meeting of the week is essentially unstructured talk time where the teacher and students can connect about any manner of things from daily activities to personal goals, while the second meeting is much more structured. In fact, the program is designed with established themes for each grade. “The Brain and Learning” is the theme for ninth-grade students, and as such, the program is structured to help ninth graders learn about themselves and the ways in which they learn best. Conversely, the program for tenth, eleventh, and twelfth graders centers around a theme called “The Future,” and it is designed to not only help the students establish meaningful goals for life beyond high school but also to offer some insight into new advances in science, technology, and so on. This is important because today’s students are preparing for careers and for using technologies that currently do not even exist.
(Pretty sobering thought, isn’t it?)
A TA committee plans activities for the program, and it collaborates with the school’s leadership team and other educators to evaluate the program on an ongoing basis. Furthermore, CHS’s students and teachers are surveyed as a means of evaluating the program’s effectiveness.
An important take-away message about the TA program at CHS is that it is a vital and essential component of the school’s overall mission. It is thoughtfully planned and continually improved upon in order to ensure its relevancy to our students, and the content is designed to be meaningful for the students both within and beyond CHS.
For more information about the TA program, please contact Bob Hall in CHS’s Guidance department or call (802) 264-5700.
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