Making good decisions about attitudes, behavior, relationships, and health starts to become more complex in the middle grades. Advisory programs were developed, in part, to help students learn strategies to rely on when they are faced with perplexing challenges. In some schools there is no advisory, but the teams build strong relationships with students and find ways to integrate social-emotional and decision making topics into the curriculum.
Middle schoolers want to see the relevance between what they do in school with what they perceive as the real world outside the school house walls. Sometimes resources designed for advisory programs can seem to be contrived and lack the authenticity students crave. There’s a new web resource that focuses on the stories of teenagers and young adults who are learning to “navigate” the real world. The current target audience is high school students, but there are elements of the website and its accompanying mini newspaper that middle school teams might adapt to use with their own students.
The website is http://navigatingtherealworld.org/. There you will find many video interviews with young adults who discuss challenges they faced and decisions they’ve made. Some of the decisions have not worked out well. However they demonstrate that more often than not there are alternative opportunities. You need to listen to any you might choose to use to make sure there is a hook that a young adolescent can grab on to. Many of them will stimulate good conversations in advisory on topics that relate directly to the students’ future success–attitudes about effort in school, the affects of bullying, making the wrong decision, feelings of isolation, etc.
Below is a sample video where Whitney, the interviewee, encourages the viewer to find the one person who wants to see you succeed and will support you. Very poignantly she points out that the one person may just be yourself.
The newspaper has sections devoted to high school, jobs and careers, college, and the finances associated with college. The information is delivered with lots of graphics and just enough text to pique students’ interest. These pieces would be a high-interest supplement for a career exploration unit. The information on financing college would add authenticity to a unit on economics. The newspaper might also make an interesting focus for student-parent nights, especially for eighth graders planning their high school program.
Tom Tracy, the Executive Director, reports that the group is exploring the possibility of developing middle school materials. However, that’s in the future. In the meanwhile, check out the website with your students and begin the conversations about their futures.