The Riverside School Advisory Program
Recognizing that leadership development is an essential part of character development and moral maturity, the school has begun to expand upon the elements of its Advisory Program to include new teaching and learning experiences that deal with issues of bullying, teasing, exclusion, and the importance of personal space.
“The Riverside community fully understands that leadership is a skill,” said Head of School, Michelle Ralston. “Developing skills takes time. Development takes patience. Our young students begin early and can plan on hard work, many tests of patience, but lots of support from the entire Riverside Community.”
The purpose of the Advisory Program at The Riverside School is to integrate the diverse elements of Riverside’s program by teaching personal responsibility (building relationships with and beyond the class group), and practicing problem solving, leadership, and collaboration.
The Advisory Program begins formally in 6th grade where students participate in weekly advisory meetings to consider study skills and habits of mind. The 7th grade advisory focuses on critical skills and dispositions for group collaboration, and the 8th graders focus on leadership of the larger school community.
When the school year begins, the 8th graders are asked to lead a Buddy Family. Each group consists of 6 to 8 students of multiple ages. The “Buddy Families” have several opportunities throughout the school year to engage in crafts, have lunch and playtime together one day each week, perform community service, and share responsibilities for taking care of the campus.
The 8th graders lead morning Assembly every school day by planning the Assembly, providing themes, structuring ways to engage students, making important announcements, and speaking about topics that are important and, helpful to the student body.
As the year goes on, they are ask to lead small groups for short activities, hone their leadership skills in daily clean up activity, and design activities for younger students at Riverside’s annual Mythology Day.
By the spring term, the 8th graders are preparing their Final Presentations. They are asked to choose a topic of interest and prepare to present their topic to the entire student body. At the same time, 8th graders are teaching elective classes during the final eight weeks of school to middle school classmates. Teacher advisors hold the new “teachers” accountable to course design, and planning for and engaging active participation.
“We have an active, healthy Advisory Program at the middle school level. Riverside 8th graders benefit from years of practicing patient leadership, assisting, and mentoring their peers,” said Ralston. “Working together with the school’s Mission, the commitment of faculty and staff, and the Riverside Advisory Program, the Riverside Pride initiative will serve to create and value a school-wide environment that fosters integrity and kindness towards one another.”
With the assistance of Ellen Moore LCMHC, a clinical therapist, the school is in the process of creating a new set of learning opportunities called Teaching Kindness.
Teaching Kindness, will train and then utilize the leadership of the 7th, and 8th graders to teach and talk with elementary students.
“We have begun to work with our middle school students so that they will be ready to go into the elementary classrooms and conduct an age-appropriate conversation and/or activity ready to address any one of these issues,” said Ralston. “We all know that younger students listen to and look up to their older schoolmates. We also know that students learn best when they teach. This will be a learning experience for our 7th and 8th graders as well.”
Riverside 6th graders are beginning to plan a series of events/presentations that will help their 5th grade schoolmates transition to middle school life. They will begin their work with the 5th graders later this spring.