The New 26-Minute Advisory
BY SAMUEL LIU '23
On a chilly Tuesday morning in April, I groan and lean over on my bed to grab my Chromebook, drearily entering my advisory Zoom. This is how many AB students experienced the remote advisory instated from January 28 to April 30. With a state mandate requiring schools to maintain at least thirty-five synchronous hours of schooling, AB introduced a twenty-six minute Zoom advisory every weekday, excluding fully remote Wednesdays.
Because AB was not fulfilling the required hours of personalized learning, the school narrowed the choice to meet the state requirements down to three main options: starting regular synchronous days earlier and ending later, extending the shorter Wednesdays to a normal school day length, or adding an extended advisory time for students to join on their asynchronous days. When placed beside the others, choosing the advisory time was by far the best option; alongside fulfilling the minimum required hours for Massachusetts schools, another predicted benefit of the advisory time was to have a designated time to address issues and school activities. While schools aimed to stay connected through advisory, students disregarded this additional time, thus making advisory counterproductive.
Since advisory met on our asynchronous days, it interrupted students’ workflow without truly serving its purpose. Students had long classes and many assessments on synchronous days, so they spent hours upon hours preparing for them on their asynchronous days. For some students, these days relieved them of the stress they experienced with the pandemic, school, their families, or their social life, giving them a chance to unwind. However, the remote advisory required that students join the meeting at a strict time, which interrupted sleep or work. Additionally, the time was wasted as most people were not comfortable engaging in serious discussions over Zoom with strangers. From many personal accounts, whenever an advisory teacher prompted discussion, most students kept their cameras and microphones off, removing themselves from the conversation.
Not only did advisory provide marginal benefits, it actually proved to be counterproductive. Because advisory interfered with people’s lives, most students associated it with annoyance. This includes the discussions that took place during this time about topics such as racism, sexism, and mental health issues. As a result, people came to resent the idea of taking part in these crucial discussions, whether it be in advisory or in the future. Further, remote advisories contradicted AB’s wellness programs by increasing screen time and costing students sleep. With the pandemic, children and adults had been forced to up their electronic usage as the world moved digitally. Unfortunately, the NCBI finds that among highschool age students, people with higher screen times are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression. Therefore, advisory simply exacerbates the roots of the problems that have long notoriously distinguished AB.
Although advisory may have fallen short of student needs, it provided a platform to speak about important issues such as the recent discriminatory actions at AB. Students and alumni at AB are becoming more outspoken about racism, sexism, and antisemitism. Acknowledging these issues during advisory serves as the foundation for resolving them. Without advisory, these troubles would be neglected more often. The simple act of the district recognizing them has enabled great reform. Yet, the shorter advisory had already achieved this goal. Adding ten minutes to the discussion marginally advanced this goal, but likely at the cost of students’ mental health. While the administration took one step forward, it took two steps back.
Due to the limited choices presented to ABRHS, credit is due to the AB administrators, who found the best option in order to meet the state mandate as the other solutions would have likely been more disruptive and controversial. Advisory at AB serves as a place to speak out about problems that are often overlooked in our society; however, with the current world events in the background, the revised remote advisory instead served little to no point as people disengaged from the discussion, and it even contradicted long-standing goals of reducing hate and aiding mental health. Although advisory may appear to be a rather small annoyance, it forces us to scrutinize the other activities we take part in and discern whether they are a truly good use of our time.