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Message from the Director of Upper School: Advisory

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

 

We were excited to have our first advisory meeting this week. Advisory is one of the students’ favorite times each week and central to building that strong community for which GUS is known. We meet every Tuesday in groups that are mixed by grade and sometimes by gender, which encourages students to explore friendships with peers they might not have classes with and to build relationships across grade levels.  Each group has one teacher who serves as a facilitator during an extended lunch period. Groups talk about important topics related to the theme we’ve chosen for the year. This year’s theme is “be kind.” This concrete and deliberate approach to character building is key to a successful program and really helps students understand our school values.

Though these are often times for serious chats, we also have plenty of fun. Traditionally, a different member of the group provides snack each week. While doughnuts are a very tempting (and popular) choice, we encourage students to consider some healthier options this year. Beyond sharing food, we also do some community building activities, like the Halloween costume contest and the gingerbread house competition. Through these activities, students don’t just have fun, but also learn to trust and value each other, which creates a strong foundation for more serious discussions.

Our first meeting had a serious message, but we tackled it through a fun and engaging challenge. This lesson was adapted from an activity a parent did with her daughter that some may have seen on social media (http://www.popsugar.com/moms/Toothpaste-Bullying-Lesson-42236017). Students were first asked to empty a tube of toothpaste. We pushed them to make sure the tube was as empty as possible. When they were absolutely positive they had finished the task, we gave them their second: to put all the toothpaste back in the tube! This is a fairly difficult task, meant to highlight the power of our words and actions. As students struggled to put the toothpaste back in the tube, some realized what this had to do with our theme. Some groups used scissors to get all the toothpaste out and were proud when they felt that they had successfully put all the paste back in. Of course, this required them to tape up the tube and they were quick to realize the tube was not the same as it once was (Who would want to use that tube of toothpaste?! Yuck!). These students connected this change to the experience of being hurt. You might be able to forgive and move on, but it can be harder to trust. Overall, students took away the message to be thoughtful about their words and actions and to remember that no one ever regrets choosing kindness.

Our first advisory really helped reinforce what we learned during our trip to Winaukee about how much fun it is to get to know new people and during our fun activity, we were reminded to be more mindful of our actions and work to be kind. As we continually learn, everything is better when we are accepting and kind, take chances, and have fun. It was a great way to start our advisory time and everyone is excited for next week’s meeting!

 

Gretchen Forsyth

Director of Upper School