The high school students at Sioux Central High School are participating in a new program that is strengthening the connection between the teens and their school.
Advisory time is provided for 30 minutes each Thursday. Students have been divided into groups of 10-12, assigned to a high school teacher. One of the neat things about the groups is that they consist of students from all four grades which allows the students the opportunity to get to know some of the students they may not otherwise have the chance to interact with.
"It takes us out of our cliques," commented Hope Ensley, a member of teacher Erin Olson's group.
School representatives attended state meetings last year that delivered this idea. Last year they tried providing advisory time for 10 minutes each school day but that short time didn't seem effective; more is being accomplished during the once a week and longer period of time.
The state message is - rigor, relevance and relationships, pointed out high school counselor Karen Dunbar. "We have rigor and relevance down pretty good through the classes we offer. Research shows if students don't feel connected to the school, they won't do as well academically."
In a small school, many students become connected by being involved in sports, music and other activities; but not all students are involved. This program gives them that connection.
The advisory groups get the students in touch with at least one adult in the school, someone to feel comfortable with and connect to. As time goes on, the teachers in charge of the groups and the students become even closer to each other and it is hoped that they will be able to talk to each other about a variety of topics or problems they may dealing with. What is said in the group, stays in the group, it was pointed out.
Erin Olson, high school English teacher, likes the idea of the groups.
"I think eventually the kids will get to know each other and stand up for one another," she commented.
Her group decided early in the school year to design and purchase T-shirts. They are known as Olson's Orangutans." Since they got their T-shirts, other groups are doing the same.
There isn't a particular curriculum the teachers follow but they do have an outline they tend to follow. Topics that have been discussed so far during their time together include self-esteem, drug abuse, goal-setting, character building, and team-building activities. The Olson group has discussed participating in community service projects, as well.
There are different reactions to the mandatory participation in the groups, Dunbar said. Surveys will be sent out to students in December asking for opinions on how they see the advisory program. All comments will be considered and will make the program even better.
The Olson group had positive comments about their time together.
"It helps to break the day up," said one, while another commented, "It's a relaxing time." (For busy high schoolers, it is good to have a short time away from all the rigor that is required of them.)
"It provides us the opportunity to interact and learn about each other," said another.
Knowing that someone in school cares, is a big plus to each student, they realize.
"I believe every teacher here at this school is here because they care about kids," Counselor Dunbar said.
Other schools in the state are taking part in this program. Sioux Central teachers and administrators are glad to be participating in this relatively new program and look forward to seeing the positive results in school and beyond.