Posted by: Mary Anna Thornton | March 30, 2014

Advisory Get-Togethers at Conserve School

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Conserve School’s advisory system is an important aspect of our program because it facilitates strong bonds within our community. Each Conserve School student has an advisor: a teacher or administrator who meets with their advisees one-on-one every week or two, goes over their grades and e-portfolios with them regularly, eats lunch with them on Thursdays, and hosts them for special activities two or three times a semester. The advisory system ensures that every Conserve School student touches base regularly with a caring adult who keeps close tabs on them and is available whenever they need assistance.

Special advisee meals held at staff homes are common occurrences on campus. Today I hosted Sunday brunch for my own advisees along with the advisory groups of Phil DeLong, Director of Admissions, and Kathleen O’Connor, Spanish Teacher and Academic Dean. We enjoyed caramel rolls, an egg and spinach breakfast casserole, fruit, and  a variety of other goodies.

Students see staff members in a new light when they visit our homes and learn about our individual personalities and histories. They discover that, despite the age and generational differences between staff and students, we share common interests and experiences. Today at brunch we talked, for example, about why we are all interested in non-traditional education: students discussed their prior experiences as students or homeschoolers; Phil shared about “unschooling” his own children; and I talked about my own decision to “escape” early from high school in order to work for several months before going to college. When students visit my home, they also have a chance to meet my youngest son, 15-year-old John, and my husband Jack, who works on maintenance and stewardship projects at Conserve.  Students often have already met Jack, but, because we work in very different areas of the Conserve School program, they usually do not realize we are a couple until they actually see us together at home. 🙂 Students also enjoy meeting family pets — in my case, two cats.

These photos are from our Sunday brunch today and also from an advisory brunch that Robert Eady and Nancy Schwartz held a few weeks ago. Robert, who teaches science and ceramics, and Nancy, who teaches art, have been married for many years and have four children and several grandchildren who visit frequently. Many students have commented over the years about how much they enjoy spending time with Robert and Nancy — in part because they are such wonderful, caring, talented people, but also because they represent for students a happy vision of growing older within a loving family and a caring community, with jobs that are enjoyable and rewarding and that contribute to the common good.

Advisory meals at staff homes humanize staff members in students’ eyes and facilitate the warm, trusting staff-student relationships that are a key component of the Conserve School experience. By sharing our personal lives with students, we also help them progress toward one of Conserve’s 14 school-wide learning goals: developing “a hopeful and realistic outlook, including a personal vision for a better future.”

-Mary Anna Thornton, Assistant Head of School


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