Advisory at Beacon: A Failed Concept?

By Ariella Moses & Tali Lebowitsch

Throughout the high-school application process, many students felt overwhelmed when deciding between each school and its unique features. Of these differing traits, one that seemed to stand out at Beacon specifically was its commitment to “Advisory.” It is described on the Beacon website as a nurturing place to provide “academic and emotional support” while “fostering a sense of community within Beacon” in addition to ensuring a space for “students to express themselves and learn about important issues in a safe and comfortable environment for each one of its members.” In its first few weeks, one could say that the weekly advisory meeting fulfilled these requirements on the surface, providing students with a place to go when in need of answers to scheduling questions or some guidance from a Big Sib. Additionally, advisory helped to familiarize students with one another, providing them with at least 20-something faces they could recognize in the hallways. However, as freshmen became more comfortable at Beacon, the strength of advisory quickly began to dwindle.

It has become apparent that advisory has not been meeting the expectations set forth by the Beacon administration during the application process. And though it is portrayed as the highlight of a student’s Beacon experience, there are many discrepancies among Beacon students’ varying experiences, with many people finding Advisory to be a waste of time. Advisors, who are supposed to be trusted adults to advocate for students needs, have often been found to be neglectful of their positions and don’t put in an effort to create the environment that advisory is supposed to be. Additionally, many students have yet to create meaningful relationships with fellow advisees and often feel like they are wasting away a period with a group of acquaintances. People do not feel comfortable opening up to each other, and thus a significant opportunity for students to have an outlet and create a community has been lost.

Many students have expressed their disappointment. For example, when asked to discuss a typical advisory period of theirs, a Sophomore stated “we never do any engaging activities,” later revealing that they view advisory in the form its taken on as more of a waste of time than a beneficial period. The same student later stated that during the average advisory period their classmates end up simply sitting around individually on their phones. Similarly, another Sophomore started “because the activities we do in advisory are either unorganized, tedious, or un-engaging, we lose interest very quickly and resort back to our phones.” Members of the Beacon community have picked up on the fact that the lessons and discussions held in advisory are part of a curriculum, rather than stimulating discussion that is tailored to the advisory in particular. Additionally, another 10th grade student stated “I wish there were actual check-ins and discussions.” This student claims to feel as though the environment “cultivated” in advisory is generic and superficial, rather than modified and supportive.

On the other hand, there have been some rare examples of advisories that have truly cultivated tight bonds and have fulfilled the goal of creating a nurturing environment that provides sanctuary to the students within it. One student commented, “I feel comfortable and it’s a nice place to relax at the end of the day, my advisor makes it clear he’s working to make our experience at Beacon the best it can.” The student elaborated by saying that one of the main reasons her advisory was so successful is her advisor being open to his students wants. She continued, “My advisor asked us directly what we wanted to get out of advisory and that shows he’s willing to listen.” Clearly, there is the potential for advisory to be successful in its mission of making a small, close community within Beacon, but that opportunity just needs to be utilized correctly. It is up to the advisors and the students to be willing to have an open dialogue about what they want out of the experience, in order for everyone to get the most out of it. Advisory is truly one of Beacon’s special aspects, and proves that the school sincerely cares about the well-being of its students. It would be a terrible shame if that were to go to waste.