Students’ Thoughts on Town Halls and Advisory
Most mornings after davening, the AJA High School students begin their day with Open Office Hours, during which they can meet with teachers or do their homework. However, Wednesdays’ time slot is committed to Community Time, town halls, or Advisory. The latter two times are designed to focus on the students’ needs through listening, discussing, and acting on them. Specifically, town halls, led by Head of High School Dr. Sim Pearl, is reserved as a constructive time to solicit the students’ “thoughts, perceptions, and feelings about the school,” as put by Dr. Pearl, and to discuss ways to improve on them at a later time.
Dr. Pearl described Advisory as “really the same thing” as town halls, in that students can share and discuss their ideas and feelings about the school. However, it is also meant to act as a time to build relationships with teachers who, according to Dr. Pearl, will operate as the students’ “fairy godmothers and fairy godfathers” by advocating for them, putting them in touch with the right people, and helping them “navigate things in or outside of school.” He also admitted that advisory has been very hard to pull off this year, partially due to COVID-19. He feels that masks make it difficult to form “deeper personal connections” with people, because they hide their faces.
In addition to Dr. Pearl’s thoughts that Advisory has been difficult this year, some students feel that both town halls and Advisory have been a little inconsistent and that their scheduled time is a hindrance to the students. For instance, sophomore Shayli Tzionov said she wishes town halls happened a little more often, but she also wishes that it did not occur during the usual Open Office Hours time. She believes “a lot of students have a lot of things to do during Open Office Hours,” and that town halls and Advisory just prevent students from getting their work done due to their time slots. Furthermore, junior Eli Cohen posited that he really enjoys Advisory, especially in his Freshman year, when it occurred once a week on Fridays. He felt that it acted as a break in between his heavy classes each Friday. However, now because it only happens close to once a month, it is not something that he can look forward to that often. Furthermore, some students, such as freshman AE Rosenthal, feel that not a lot can be achieved through Advisory due to its inconsistency and short amount of time
On top of that, some students do not entirely understand the purpose and idea behind these times, specifically Advisory. Since Advisory has been so inconsistent with the timing, and also inconsistent in what occurs during each meeting — activities range from playing Kahoots to filling out surveys — students like Shayli and AE agree that the intent behind Advisory is unclear.
Furthermore, some students wish there was another way to get things done or follow up after meetings. Shayli suggested a method in which students are able to submit written suggestions in a box or online survey beforehand and then discuss them during each meeting. This way, those who do not feel comfortable raising their hand and speaking in front of the whole school still have their voices heard. Others, like Eli, suggested that there be a way to follow up on meetings over things that people feel were not completely answered or taken care of during meetings due to the time constraints.
Overall, of the students who understand the system of town halls and Advisory, most agree that they give students “time to talk about what we could improve in the school,” said Shayli. They also agree that Advisory is a unique opportunity to “join together with some of your classmates, do fun activities, build bonds,” said by Eli. Many students enjoy the concept of these times in school, and Dr. Pearl believes that as of now they don’t occur “often enough,” but he hopes that soon they will occur “once a week for a wonderful rhythm.”