by Grace Lamm, high school science teacher
As a teacher at a high school in Brooklyn, you take on many roles. The role of classroom teacher is a given, and a challenge. The other role that many people take on is the role of advisor. As an advisor, you commit to mentoring 15-20 students from their freshman year through their graduation day.
I am very lucky to advise the students that I have in my advisory. My advisory is full of quirks, but as a group, we work well together. Of the 15 kids, I have the five most popular girls in the junior class, two of the shiest girls in the junior class, and four of the dweebiest dudes in the junior class. In addition, I have the pleasure of having a French foreign exchange student, and three girls who thrive on the drama created with breaking up and making up with their boyfriends on a weekly basis. Needless to say, my 15 students are some of the most typical high school archetypes you could find. In another decade they would watch The Breakfast Club and all identify with every part of the movie.
Part of being an advisor is preparing your advisees for college. This year is the first year that my high school has a junior class (we opened our doors in 2011) and all junior advisors are nervous. In a recent grade level meeting, some people started fretting over ways to give their kids an edge in the college application process. One of my colleagues suggested reading a book “just for fun” but in advisory. Another suggested visiting CUNY schools with kids during after-school hours. I thought my advisory would benefit from having very honest conversations about applying to college in addition to the visits, extra reading time, SAT and ACT prep, and essay writing workshops. Needless to say, I am setting myself up for quite a year.
On the first day of school, my advisees came bursting into my classroom all freshly scrubbed and perfectly pressed, ready for the first day of school. As we gathered around our “family” table, I began handing out the first day of school materials. Blue cards, lunch forms, MetroCards, and permission slips were all passed around the table, and I built up the courage to tell them what was ahead for their junior year.
“Over the course of this year, there are many things you will accomplish. You will have taken an SAT or ACT, begun the college application process, and participated in extracurriculars. And then you will have another year of high school left.”
One of my advisees, Alindra, shot me a look of pure agony.
“WAIT. You are telling me I NEED to do something outside of school?”
“Yes. You need to participate in a club, internship, volunteer program, or get a job, but you must work on becoming a person who doesn’t just go to school and then go home.”
Fifteen sets of eyes turned towards me at the head of the table. Junior year had begun. I knew that this year I would have to make the difficult transition from ally who is always supporting advisees to ally who is always pushing them to do more than they want to do. I did not know that I would have to start that transition on the first day.
Grace Lamm is the pseudonym of a third-year high school science teacher in Brooklyn. If you’d like to write for the New Teacher Diaries, email firstname.lastname@example.org.