I'm on my third rotation as an advisor. At Mdihs, we get a class of ninth graders and stay with them through till graduation, with varying degrees of closeness and friendship. My first two groups featured a cast of characters that changed regularly, struggled a good bit, dropped out (in some cases), made me very proud, and, in other cases, drove me demented. We met about once a month for about 40 minutes, and did occasional projects and activities together. We "got on," as the Brits say.
This year MDI has a new format, so I am seeing my 13 sophomore advisees every day of the week: 10 mins most days, and 30 mins. on Fridays. We chat, we do puzzles, we check in, we lie in exhausted piles around the room--we've also participated in Spirit week, wearing different themed costumes each day; worked on really learning the school song; enjoyed two fire drills; done a few on-line activities, some of which we hated and others of which were okay, and of course we also partook in the PSATs. I liked this group last year, when we were only 11, a little quieter, smaller, and more insecure. We've gained two new members of the group, and added height, age, and attitude. What's most amazing, however, is how differently we interact now that we see each other daily. I know that N. and F. will get sucked into their laptops if I'm not proactive about it; I know that L., E., and A. have a bad habit of gossiping and need to be reminded to "use their powers for good, not evil," and I know that I can be as firm as I want with E. so long as I keep my voice cheerful and upbeat. In addition, I've seen K. and K. fit seamlessly into our group, Z. survive a tough summer, and A. weather a nastily broken ankle, a week out, a wheelchair, and, finally crutches.
On the return side, I just had a long meeting to try to get one advisee back on a healthy, productive track. During that meeting, I was able to give reasons for hope and concern on the basis of daily observations and conversations. After it ended, I just happened to run into another advisee looking blue in the hallway, and pretty quickly found out he was feeling overwhelmed and nervous about his school work. He's prone to depression, I remembered, and though I had to run out for an appointment, I was able to give him a little love, make a to-do list, hand him a granola bar, and promise that we'd touch base in advisory tomorrow. The feeling of interconnectedness (which sometimes, yes, masquerades as exhaustion and over-responsibility) was palpable and very strong: I know these kids. I've only had three of them in class, and only this year, but I feel more and more that I know them, in the words of the CES document that inspired our first lurching advisory steps, "deeply and well." It's hard work, but it's good work, because it enriches both my teaching life in the school and their growing lives in it as well. These connections are why I went into teaching. Go advisory!