Relationships with Adults
There is much research that says students need interactions with an adult who cares about them. At EOC, students meet with advisors in different ways throughout the day.
First they meet in advisory, where students find encouragement and a chance to share with adults and kids. Another “live” meeting time during the day is the one-on-one meeting with the student’s advisor, which students usually have from 3-5 times per week. While traditional schools rarely have time for these 1-1 sessions, they are the backbone of a project-based school. Here students get help with designing their projects, figuring out what their next steps are, getting information, and learning to present their project. These times may happen any time during the day, as agreed upon by advisors and students together; there are no bells the student must follow or a lock-step schedule to keep.
A third common meeting time is Math. Each student who hasn’t finished their high school math requirement has an established math time. An advisor will be on hand to answer questions and show them how to do problems using a computer whiteboard or shared screen. Even this time is flexible, however. Some students attend math every day, while others do their work more independently and only check in when they have questions.
At our school each student has an adult who is ‘in their corner.’ Rather than grading the student or enforcing assignments or behavior rules, advisors’ main roles are just that —advising. Students see them as being helpful rather than punitive. In fact, in a recent survey, 92% of respondents graded our school as “excellent” or “good” in the category of “teacher interest in students.” They see their advisors as interested in them and wanting them to succeed, helping them rather than fighting with them.
EdVisions has been doing a survey of project-based schools which indicate that this model, with an adult “advisor” personally helping students design their projects rather than a teacher who just lectures, is very helpful in students feeling cared about and encouraged. Students in our school feel a high level of adult support, which affects their motivation and hope for the future.
You might wonder if while going to an off-campus school, you will get a chance to make friends and talk to other kids. There are several times during the day when you will get to chat with other students. First of all, there are advisory meetings almost every day. In advisory you find out what other students are doing, talk about the weekend or other topics, learn something about each other.
Another good place to get to know students and staff is on field trips. Each advisory group goes on one field trip per month. Some popular destinations have been: climbing walls, caving, museums, zoos, and archeological sites.
There are also opportunities for participating in student activity groups, book discussions, the school newsletter, and support groups.
As teens know better than anyone, socializing can happen online through chat programs like MSN or AIM. All students and staff have these programs on their computers, so everyone in the school is only a click away to chat with. There is also a student commons on our Elluminate program, where students can go to socialize or finish up discussions.
The relationships between students in a project-based school tend to be positive instead of using put-downs or teasing. Students feel good about what they’re accomplishing. They feel no need to criticize each other or compete for attention. Positive attention is what they really desire, and they get it from each other and from their advisors.