Friday, July 1, 2011

Girls and Expectations

Used under a Creative Commons license: image link

While this one's younger than the girls who will be in our year group next year, and the article I read today from Lisa Bloom is also about younger girls, both still resonated with me.  Lisa Bloom's article in the Huffington Post is called, How to Talk to Little Girls.

Here's one of her paragraphs:

Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything. It sets them up for dieting at age 5 and foundation at age 11 and boob jobs at 17 and Botox at 23. As our cultural imperative for girls to be hot 24/7 has become the new normal, American women have become increasingly unhappy. What's missing? A life of meaning, a life of ideas and reading books and being valued for our thoughts and accomplishments.

Isn't that what we want for all our kids, whatever their gender?

My co-year adviser and I were talking today about what we want to establish, right from the start of next year in Year 7 (and before, in the contact we have with the kids) about who they are, what they can do and so on.  We will be setting high standards and expectations, but based on them doing their best, whatever their best is.  We want them to mesh and grow together and draw strength from the group ethos and principles.  We want them to have the most number of doors and opportunities open to them; as many sunlit meadows as possible for them to explore.  Big pictures like that come down to the small interactions such as those which tell them what we value, eg. appearance or character, and so on.  So even if Bloom's article was about younger kids, it's still a useful read for year advisers.



Monday, June 20, 2011

Advice: wear sunscreen

Sunscreen helps.
Photo used under a Creative Commons license

Do you remember (it was first published in 1997) that graduation speech advice column that started like this?

Inside every adult lurks a graduation speaker dying to get out, some world-weary pundit eager to pontificate on life to young people who'd rather be Rollerblading. Most of us, alas, will never be invited to sow our words of wisdom among an audience of caps and gowns, but there's no reason we can't entertain ourselves by composing a Guide to Life for Graduates.

I encourage anyone over 26 to try this and thank you for indulging my attempt.Ladies and gentlemen of the class of '97:

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.

(it goes on further, so follow the link below to read it in its entirety).

It was written by Mary Schmich, and you can find it on the Chicago Tribune site here:,0,5909206,full.column

Our year group are a long way from graduation (from high school; they're still at primary school!).  But hey, next time I want to find this column, I know just where it is.  And maybe your year group is graduating sooner, and you're on the hunt for ideas?

When my last year group finished, I had a heartfelt speech I had written myself, and one to read from B1, the year adviser who had worked with me for five of the six years.  His was better, I think; braver than mine.  Both were thoroughly applauded, which was nice, and we got (me present, him absent) a standing ovation.  Appreciated that.



Monday, June 13, 2011

What will make you happy?

Photo used under a Creative Commons license.

So if you put this list in front of your year group, how many kids would agree that some or all of these would make them happy?

1. Becoming rich, powerful and famous.
2. Treating the universe as if it were a mail-order catalog by expecting it to gratify our every desire.
3. Yearning for the “freedom” to achieve every last wish.
4. Seeking too much pleasure.
5. Maliciously taking revenge on someone who has hurt you.
6. Assuming that any one thing will make you happy.
7. Expecting all praise and no criticism.
8. To vanquish all your enemies.
9. To never face adversity.
10. Expending all your effort on taking care of yourself alone.

This list is from an article by Matthieu Ricard, and if you read his long version of the list above here, you can discover (and explain to any bewildered kids) why none of the above are good roads to happiness.  Or else ask them to consider/reconsider and give your their opinion.  One way or the other.

And do I think all kids are perfect and will read this list and be angels of smartness?  No.  They are, after young, and therefore know everything.  It's a long-drip process called growing up.



Monday, June 6, 2011

Motivation: what you become

Honk!!! Honk!!! Honk!!! :)))
Photo used under a Creative Commons license

With the prospect of a class blog, and, from next year, weekly year meetings and so forth, I plan to collect some motivational quotes to use.  I never expect all of them to hit the target with all the kids, but that's the nature of the game as a year adviser.  Try something, try something else, try whatever you can and each time you'll catch some of them. 

Twitter is a great source for these.

The major value in life is not what you get.  The major value in life is what you become.

Throughout my teaching career, the 'get' and the 'stuff' seem to have gathered more and more importance to kids, and they can prioritise it far ahead of what they could and could wish to become.  Part-time jobs in the later years of high school which take more time and energy than they have left for school - sometimes it's about necessity, but sometimes it's about the consumer stuff, the want-it-now ahead of longer-term thinking and planning.  It's one of the issues facing year advisers as well as their year groups.



Saturday, May 28, 2011

Introducing this blog

A Small Carousel  in a France
Photo used under a Creative Commons license

As it says over there in the sidebar, this blog is about being a year adviser.  Links, information, ideas, useful stuff.  All the wild, wonderful, tiring, exhilarating elements of this experience.  It's a carousel ride (unsubtle link to picture entries with pictures are more fun to read, I find).

In the school system in which I work, each year group in high school, from Year 7 (12-13 year olds) to Year 12 (17-18 year olds) has a year adviser; sometimes two, if people choose to work as a team.  The year adviser/s stay with that year group as they go through high school, from the adaptation and adjustments of Year 7, the hormones and hassles of the middle years of high school to the challenges of Year 12 and the final year credential, the Higher School Certificate, with its external examinations.

The role of a year adviser is a welfare role, having oversight of the group, helping kids as they need it, helping to solve problems and to do what you can to assist them to succeed in their high school careers.

This is the definition of the job from the website (which is aimed at parents):

Student Advisers
Student advisers are like the surrogate parent for a particular year (for example Year 8) accepting responsibility for your child's learning and welfare while at school. The student adviser, who works closely with the school's welfare team and your child's classroom teachers, is often the first person a parent should approach to discuss any problems or issues about your child.

I've done this job before, taking a year group from Year 7 in 2002 to the HSC in Year 12 in 2007.  I did the job as part of a team of two, first with a colleague I shall call B1; and then, when he transferred overseas, with B2. 

This time round, starting in  at the beginning of the next school year in January 2012 (although we start our work months before the Year 7 kids prance through the gate), a decade after beginning with that first group, I am working again with B2, and our plan (unless disaster intervenes) is to work together and with this year group until they finish their HSC in 2017.

Already I can see new challenges which weren't around so much ten years ago.  The existence and penetration of Facebook, for example, has altered the landscape in relation to issues like digital footprints, cyber safety and cyber bullying.  Other things are as constant and inconstant as human nature.  I know already that 5% of the kids (or less) will generate maybe 70% of the work, through behaviour/social issues they may have and for which we will need to do our best to work out solutions/strategies, together with other members of the school's welfare team and staff.  That is always the way.  I know that at my school, we will be writing a summative comment for each child's report, twice a year (at out school the year groups are around 200 kids in the junior years - a lot of reports to read, a lot of comments to devise).

The transition program at school has already begun, and we've had each feeder school group visit our high school for a day; I can't yet tell you names, but my general impression is of a great group of kids, lots of different personalities and enthusiasm. I look forward to getting to know them better.  One avenue we plan to explore, which wasn't around ten years ago, is some kind of internal school blog for the kids - information, photographs, announcements, events, all sorts of content and 'glue'.  B2 and I both agree on the importance of glueing the kids together, strengthening the ties and friendships and collaboration between them: it makes a huge difference to their happiness and success in high school.  One of our strategies is a Year 7 camp in their first term at high school, and we've begun planning that.

So, lots of plans, lots of ideas, lots of unknowns.  An adventure.  I plan to blog here on a regular basis - not daily, as I do on my teacher librarian blog, but regularly and as I find things which might be useful to us and to you.

If you've got links and ideas to share, please leave a comment (comments are all moderated, ie. not published until I've reviewed them so I can eliminate any spammy ones).  It would be great if this blog became a community of voices, not just mine.