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Advisory committee to draft new curriculum

A newly formed Advisory Steering Committee, consisting of both teachers and students, will investigate blending the successful aspects of current advisory curriculum—such as close teacher-student relationships—with new ideas like social-emotional learning. 

Assistant Principal and ASC Co-Chair Clarisse Haxton said the committee hopes to expand the advisory curriculum based on student and teacher feedback. The committee intends to make recommendations to Paly administrators by the end of the 2019-20 school year.

“We started this work together last year by doing a survey of all students about advisory,” Haxton said. “I did student focus groups with students about their advisory experience.”

According to Haxton, the ASC will also examine student and staff feedback from previous years of advisory.

“This year, the steering committee is a more formal look at data and history, and student voice and staff voice,” Haxton said. “Once we build all that foundational knowledge, then we’ll use all of that to make recommendations about changes to advisory moving forward.”

Haxton said the ASC also plans to incorporate the opinions of teachers who are currently serving as teacher advisors.

“This work is really just starting, and then we have scheduled to share it with the teacher advisors as a whole at different points along the way, basically, to keep them updated with the work,” Haxton said. “Then, we’ll build them how to get their feedback as we move more towards the recommendation status.”

According to Haxton, the committee plans to work with related groups such as Sources of Strength and the Paly Wellness Committee to better address issues of mental health and social-emotional learning within advisory curriculum.

“Given that (social-emotional learning) is a priority for our schools, (we’re thinking about) how we (can) best incorporate it to advisory,” Haxton said.

Senior Leo Marburg said that while some parts of the advisory curriculum, such as the lessons for seniors regarding college applications, are helpful, there is lots of room for improvement.

“I’m generally happy with the advisory curriculum,” Marburg said. “I think it would be improved by having more activities that engaged with students, as right now, advisory only consists of presentations and I see many students zone out or play video games.”

Marburg said he would support efforts to further integrate social-emotional learning into the curriculum.

“In previous years I know people have made fun of content like the handshake workshop, myself included, but it is very true that having a solid handshake can make a big difference when someone is creating a first impression,” Marburg said. “Maybe people should’ve been a little less cynical.”

According to teacher Josh Bloom, another ASC co-chair, advisory was originally designed to facilitate close relationships between teachers and students.

“One of the original goals of the advisory program when it was first formed back in the early 90s was to basically forge a more familiar connection between students and a trusted adult on campus,” Bloom said.

Bloom said the committee hopes the changes it recommends will encourage this sort of bond.

“One of the things I think is probably no mystery is that sense of connectedness and familiarity, is something that, you know, we could probably do better at as a program,” Bloom said. “So one of the things that we’re trying to look at is, you know, how can we improve opportunities to do that?”

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