The advisory structure is the core organizational and relational structure of a Big Picture school. It is the heart and soul of the school and is often described as the “home” and “second family” by students. Our goal is for all Big Picture Learning students to be a part of a small advisory of no more than fifteen students with one advisor who works with the students throughout their entire high school career.
The advisor’s role is to manage each student’s individual, personalized learning plan and Learning Through Internship/Interest (LTIs) placement. To do this, the advisor must build a relationship with each student and his/her family (this includes home visits and one-on-one meetings with each student). Though certified in one area, the advisor 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, each student’s project, and to design advisory activities.
The advisor is a coach, mentor, teacher, manager, and often – friend. Advisors 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 advisory time to meet the needs of the students. S/he facilitates 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, in the school community, and in the Big Picture educational process.
Essential Elements of Advisory Structure include:
- Small size (ideally, about fifteen students)
- Multi-year relationship with students
- Relationships with families and/or guardians
- Home visits
- Whole-advisory relationship-building
- Individual advisor/student relationships
- Cross-fertilization of ideas among students
- Dedicated advisory time
- 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 Learning educational materials