Posted by: Staff | 12.11.2007

The Fall of the Mixed-Grade Advisory

MADDY KIEFER ‘08

Most seniors remember the mixed grade advisories that were disbanded in September 2005. Upon our promotion to the upper school in 2004, we were put in advisories with upperclassmen, which, although daunting at first, was eventually an experience that many of us appreciated. Older students provided us with all sorts of advice for surviving high school, from choosing class to prioritizing our responsibilities. Mixed grade advisories gave us the chance to hear first-hand about the stress of junior year, the complicated college process that followed, and the ultimate decision of choosing which college to attend before we had to experience it ourselves. They weren’t trying to scare us, but, rather, to prepare us. When questioned about what it was like when multiple grades were represented in his advisory, Peter Gow, the Director of College Counseling, who has been working at Beaver for over twenty years, recalls, “I remember some great examples of good advice and important lore being passed down in those meetings from older students to younger ones.” He does believe, however, that “same-grade groups can be great ways for advisors to work together on issues related to grade-level concerns.”

A year later, however, few were happy to hear that new advisories were separated by grade. Toph Tucker, a senior who was in a mixed-grade advisory until last year, says, “I know that the administration worries that older students will intimidate freshmen or some such thing, but having some representation from higher grades was one of the best things about my advisory.” Toph and I, who were both in Mr. Whitten’s advisory for three years, had such an amazing time in our mixed-grade advisory that we were furious that the incoming freshman didn’t get this opportunity. Instead, they were essentially being cut off. We knew that keeping all of the freshmen apart from upperclassmen was a mistake. The freshmen, however, considered themselves lucky. The idea of having to spend half an hour with the “big kids” every week wasn’t appealing, so there were no objections from them. When asked his opinion on being in an all freshmen advisory, Willy Tucker, Toph’s younger brother, states that he was “pretty happy” about being separated from the older students. As a reply to this comment, Toph remarks, “He just doesn’t know what he’s missing.”

One of the benefits of having older students in our advisory was that we were able to make friends in other grades and connect weekly. Mr. Gow recalls that he “certainly saw inter-grade friendships develop.” These days, the only interactions that most freshmen have with other grades are in extracurriculars, where they tend to isolate themselves and simply stay with the other students in their grade. By contrast, we could more easily branch out from the seventy or so people that we had class with every day and enjoy time spent with these other students. Since the end of the mixed-advisory era, there has been an increased separation between the grades. Hopefully this separation won’t reach the extreme that it has with the middle school. For a school that preaches a community without divisions, such separation in advisories is counter productive.

Currently, the only normally scheduled time that upper and middle school students are together is at All School Meeting once a week. Aside from that, upper schoolers occasionally visit the middle school wing to use the computer labs, but high school students are not even supposed to be in the first-floor middle school hallway. We are almost at the point where they might as well be two separate schools.

Although the Middle School is not involved in the current Upper School advisory problem, and although it hasn’t yet reached the tipping point, these issues are becoming a pattern at Beaver. It is important for the school to recognize the negative effects that these changes are having on the student body, and for it to make strides to correct them. The first two lines of Beaver’s school song read, “Stand we now to hail thee/Beaver, loyal and united,” but the unity of our school is at risk of deteriorating. If the school administration continues to make these choices to separate the grades even further, however, the only occasions that the grades at Beaver will mix will be in the hallways. If it reaches that point, our small school will seem all the more lonely, and our close-knit community as we know it today will cease to exist.

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Responses

  1. Excellent article, and I agree wholeheartedly. 🙂

  2. My feelings exactly! I thought mixed-grade advisories were a real benefit for us younger students and I am sad for those who won’t experience it.

  3. I had no idea this was going on until you brought it to my attention. amazing work!

  4. I’d like to point out that, according to the current poll results, 6/6 (100%) of people who have been in a mixed-grade advisory loved it, yet 3/5 (60%) of people who’ve never experienced it say they don’t want to.*

    What that tells me is that clearly, those people just don’t know what they’re missing! 🙂

    – Toph

    *And then there’s the lone straggler standing in support of my cheesy, sanitized Beaver/Gone with the Wind pun…


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