Advisory and Advisors
The advisory structure is the core organizational and relational structure of Camden Big Picture Learning Academy. It is the heart and soul of the school and is often described as the “home” and “second family” by students. Camden Big Picture Learning Academy has a small number of students (goal of 15) with one advisor for a minimum of two years (preferably four).
The advisor's role is to manage the student’s Learning Through Internships (LTIs) and individual, personalized learning plans. To do this, the advisor must get to know and build relationships with each student and his or her families (this includes home visits, and one-on-one meetings with each student). Though certified in one area, the adviser does not “teach” his or her subject area; rather he or she needs to draw on many disciplines to meet the needs of each student, their projects, and the advisory activities. Ultimately, the success of the student is the responsibility of the advisor.
The advisor is a coach, mentor, teacher, manager, and often, friend. Advisers guide students in learning how to manage their time, plan their work, find internships, and complete projects. Advisors coach students to seek and build authentic learning experiences inside and outside of the school building.
The advisor also organizes the “advisory time” (the half hour to hour-long meetings of the group) in the morning and the afternoon to meet the needs of the students. He or she facilitates the group activities that are designed to expose students to new ideas and concepts; provide academic learning opportunities; create a group identity and group process; and build a sense of belonging and trust in each other, school, and the educational process.
Essential Elements of Advisory Structure Include:
- Small size
- Multi-year relationship with students
- Knowing families/Home visits
- Bonding trips/Group relationship-building
- One on one time – building relationships with individual students
- Cross-fertilization of ideas among students
- Advisory time occurs twice daily (on non-LTI days), outside of student independent work
- Advisories set up for maximum diversity of gender, ethnicity, race, socioeconomic background, etc.
- Passion is central to learning
- Respect and responsibility
- Use of Big Picture Company materials
- Structured group activities
- Transmission of values
- Student planning and use of individual work time and setting priorities