Advisory period builds relationshipsAllison's Gunderson's eighth-graders have a lot of ways to describe her. She's a friend. She's like an aunt. She's a guide. Noticeably, none of Gunderson's students used the word that would traditionally describe her: teacher.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
Allison's Gunderson's eighth-graders have a lot of ways to describe her. She's a friend. She's like an aunt. She's a guide. Noticeably, none of Gunderson's students used the word that would traditionally describe her: teacher.
As part of Red Wing High School's new block scheduling system implemented this school year, Gunderson leads an advisory period. For a half hour each day, she meets with a group of eighth-graders to do weekly grade checks, preside over study time and to explore future careers.
But the main goal of the time is for teachers to build personal relationships with their students.
"If they can develop relationships with adult staff, they're less likely to drop out," Gunderson said.
The chance to connect with a staff member is one of the things students like most about the advisory time, last month's survey of Red Wing High School students showed.
That certainly holds true for Gunderson's class.
"Allison understands the relationship piece and has been doing outstanding work with her group," said Principal Beth Borgen in an e-mail.
What's more, Gunderson's students say they have a better relationship with her than they do with their other teachers.
"She bonds with us. It's like a giant family," Austin Freking said.
Gunderson says her approach to the advisory period is to have fun with it.
"I knew that we were supposed to develop relationships and you can't do that by yelling at kids all the time," she said.
And it's not just her students who are feeling the positive impact. Gunderson calls her advisory period is the best part of her day.
"If you're given time to spend with kids without the pressure of learning something specific or having to cover certain ideas by a certain time ... it's just pleasant for them and me," she said.
Because the new schedule has students in class for four 80-minute periods a day, she says they need a break from academics that is longer than just the lunch period.
"(Advisory) is sort of a recess for high school students," she said.
Most students stop having fun at school in sixth or seventh grade, Gunderson said. "With advisory, we try to have fun."
To do that, Gunderson creates activities that are usually more at home in elementary and middle schools than in high schools. It's part of the reason her students call Gunderson's advisory period "pure awesomeness" and "the best."
For example, next week her class will celebrate the end of the semester with a pizza party. And before the winter break, she took her students tubing and sledding on the hills behind the school.
But she didn't just stand on the sidelines. The connection she has with her students allowed Gunderson to join in the fun.
"They threw snowballs in my face. Just the fact that they could do that to a teacher is out of the ordinary," she said. "They don't see me as just a teacher. They see me as a person, not just some robot that's teaching math."