That sounds really grandiose, I know. But I have every reason to believe it’s true.
I just got back from a five day engagement working with faculty at Singapore American School, one the largest and most prestigious American schools overseas.
They selected The Wildwood Outreach Center after three visits to Wildwood’s campuses over the past few years, and literally scouring much of the planet—Asia, Europe and North America—investigating a range of programs to find what works best for kids in today’s educational institutions.
Then this summer, the school sent one teacher here to Los Angeles for training and an in-depth look at our high school program, and that’s how Wildwood was finally selected.
So in October I spent a full week at the Singapore American School’s sprawling southeast Asia campus working with high school teachers and administrators, helping them plan an advisory program, set to roll out next school year to their 2,100 students.
In short, they want for their students what we have for ours. What impressed them most on those visits here to LA is a simple precept that the Wildwood community understands quite well: Building positive relationships among students, and between students and adults, is essential to student academic success.
Singapore American School (SAS) realized that its students needed to enhance these relationships, and identified that a robust advisory program would provide be the way. The two faculty members charged with bringing advisory to SAS, counselor Sue Nesbitt and history teacher Eric Burnett, asked me to work first with about one-third of the high school faculty—those teachers they felt best suited to first implement advisory and lead their peers in the full faculty.
For most SAS teachers, advisory is a new concept. I found they approached the work with open minds, seeming ready to re-examine their own professional practice in light of advisory’s benefits to students.
What they weren’t expecting was the positive effect our work together was having on them.
By applying Wildwood’s approach to relationship building, our work together throughout the week was an opportunity for SAS teachers to forge connections with their colleagues. We replicated the experience that students would have in an advisory group at Wildwood, with exercises like a non-verbal chalk talk conversations and verbal group share-outs.
At the end of our week together, I read this reflection from an SAS teacher: “I can’t express how excited I am about implementing an advisory program at SAS. While I know many people are nervous/fearful/etc., I truly believe relationships should be at the forefront of teaching and having an advisory program will only bring good to this school and all of its students and educators.”
In advisory, students feel known by their peers and seen and appreciated by their teachers. The teachers at SAS were learning to connect with their own peers in meaningful ways that they hadn’t experienced before. The benefit—a teaching corps more committed to implementing advisory for their students, as well as greater commitment to each other.
These relationships prime the pump for learning and critical thinking, and lay the groundwork for success in college and beyond. A recent study by Gallup found that the most significant indicators of a graduate’s feelings of fulfillment after college and engagement at work aren’t about where or what one studied. What matters, rather, is how connected and emotionally supported one was during one’s college years. It seems natural that being part of an advisory in middle and high school helps students build that essential scaffold.
The trip to Singapore was an adventure for all of us, as The Wildwood Way continues to strengthen teachers, teaching and learning around the world. And, by the way, click HERE to read about we also affect public school change—one advisory at a time.
~ By Steve Barrett, Director of Outreach