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Perspective: Advisory time, other initiatives support students

The Jefferson City Public School District administrative team for grades 9-12 includes principals at Jefferson City High School, the Simonsen Ninth Grade Center, and Nichols Career Center. We often discuss what is best for students and the teaching staff and how we might best meet the needs of families in the school district.

In recent meetings, and in discussions with central office administration and other principals throughout the district, we have set priorities for the coming school year.

The overriding district-level focus is the establishment and solidifying of positive relationships with others. That idea is crucial and should permeate everything we do.

One of the commitments on the part of the 9-12 administrative team is to make sure we do all we can to make advisory time of the greatest benefit to students. We want to support advisory class through our involvement and through how we communicate the desired expectations.

If you are not familiar with advisory time, it is a twice-a-week class that allows students to meet in a small group with an advisory teacher so they can engage in discussions and gain the support needed to create a more enriching high school experience.

More specifically, it provides the following opportunities: (1) It gives teachers more ways to establish a meaningful and positive relationship with each student. (2) It can serve to develop a good, working partnership with families. (3) It places teachers in a good position to be a graduation coach for students. (4) It helps our students develop good character. (5) It is used to teach students skills they will need throughout life. (6) It fosters a sense of student involvement and good citizenship through school and community projects. (7) Advisory also serves to help each student successfully navigate through the struggles and challenges of life.

In other words, advisory class exists to support students and to inspire them to do much better in every phase of life.

In addition, teachers must emphasize character education in every classroom (not just during advisory time). It is something that is simply a part of good education; teachers can use spontaneous moments and teaching opportunities to teach valuable character lessons and important life skills as a way of reinforcing curriculum instruction.

Raymond J. McNulty is president of the International Center for Leadership in Education and has been an educator since 1973. He speaks regularly about what schools must do to ensure a thorough education for all students. In his book, “It’s Not Us Against Them, Creating the Schools We Need,” he wrote, “The objective is to cultivate well-rounded individuals who see value in working hard and considering others, who try to use good judgment when making decisions, who take on leadership roles, and who understand the importance of personal accountability.”

The JCPS 9-12 schools also emphasize doing everything necessary to be Professional Learning Communities (PLCs).

In recent years the teaching staff has done a lot of work to ensure that they are working together to create a much better learning experience for all students.

Without explaining every detail, being a school that is a PLC means that proper assessments are in place to determine if students are learning what they should; regular adjustments are made until a student achieves mastery.

We always have to ask ourselves, “What are we going to do if a student doesn’t learn it?”

And for students who are typically at the top of the class, the challenge is enriching their learning experience and challenging them to press onward to greater accomplishments. As a PLC, we must ask ourselves, “What are we going to do for the students who have learned it? What then?”

As we work on these areas of emphasis (advisory time, character education, and PLCs) we must continue to make student learning is meaningful and relevant to the world in which students live.

If we fail to provide learning that is meaningful and relevant, we will lose a student’s interest; in some cases, we run the risk of losing the student altogether.

And that’s something that we can never afford to do. We are committed to reaching every one.

David Wilson, EdD, is one of the assistant principals at Jefferson City High School. You may e-mail him at david.wilson@jcschools.us.

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