The teacher advisory program began on a small scale at Southside High School in the spring of 1995. Thirty teachers volunteered to initiate the program beginning with the eighth grade students. We met these students and their parents in spring conferences in the spring of their eighth and ninth grade years. When this group came to us as sophomores, we put a skeleton program into effect. Each year we added approximately thirty advisors and the next group of sophomores. In the 1999-2000 school year, all Southside students had an advisor and most teachers were involved in the program.
Our primary goal as advisors is to provide each student at Southside High School a small group in which to explore topics relevant to success not only in high school but also after high school. Out students are grouped alphabetically and advisors are randomly assigned to each group. We try to assign twenty or fewer students to each group. Students remain with the same group of students and advisor throughout their high school careers.
We meet with our advisory groups on a monthly basis. A thirty minute session is created by using a special activity schedule. During these monthly sessions we have a wide range of activities including study skills, organizational skills, learning styles, stress management, time management, goal setting, problem solving, and anti-drug and alcohol activities. We have also invited speakers from our local human resources association to speak to our students about skills and expectations needed to succeed in the workplace. We continue to change activities to fit the needs of our students.
Our successes are present in our individual groups as we witness students who are not involved in school activities become involved in these small group discussions. One of the most successful activities we did last year was the anti-drug and alcohol activity which was a part of Red Ribbon Week. Our students continued to discuss the issues throughout the day. They were very interested in the topic and were impressive in their ability to distinguish responsibility in connection to drinking.
Obstacles have existed in our program. During the first and second years, we had logistical problems on advisory session days. All of our students did not have advisors so we had to find activities for our junior and senior classes the first year and for our seniors the second year. This limited the number of times we could meet. Many advisors felt we did not meet with our students enough to really get to know them. This problem is solved now that all students have an advisor.
Some teachers are more receptive to this program than others. Some feel very comfortable in this small group situation discussing something other than their content areas. This enthusiastic group of teachers is what keeps the program running smoothly. During preschool staff development we did involve about fifty percent of the staff in the selection of advisory session activities. Up to this point a committee had selected materials for monthly sessions. Hopefully, this selection process will make the advisors feel more comfortable with the activities.
The teacher advisor program at Southside High School is a successful program. Our students can all benefit from the skills taught during these sessions. This program does take time and energy, but the benefits to our students are enough to make it worthwhile.