One of the most exciting aspects of working with Colorado Academy Middle School students is seeing the physical, academic, and social/emotional growth that happens between Sixth and Eighth Grade. Physically the change can often be measured in feet, not inches. Similarly, students move from more concrete understanding to solving complex problems and speaking their mind using metaphor and simile. While impressive, the greatest change for many students is in the area of social and emotional growth—the ability to understand themselves, others, and to navigate an increasingly complex social world successfully. This is where our new Advisory program comes in.

A place of connection

CA is known for strong connections between students and between students and teachers. Still, we see the need for students to get more practice at understanding themselves, working empathetically with others, and making wise personal and interpersonal decisions. Unquestionably, navigating early adolescence is not easy, but perhaps today it is even more complex, given cell phones, video game culture, the current political climate, and the wide variety of substances that are readily available to our youth in Colorado.

Our Advisory program

It is true that every generation learns by doing and from the mistakes that are made and feedback received. What excites us about our Advisory program is our increased ability to intentionally create opportunities for our students to practice the intra and interpersonal skills that will help them be successful in creating friendships and developing problem solving and resiliency skills. Each week students will do two SEL (social and emotional learning) lessons taught by their advisor. The activities are fun and skill building. Each will focus on helping students develop skills in the following target areas:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship skills
  • Responsible decision making

Some lessons are as simple as giving our students practice and the language to more accurately assess how they are feeling from moment to moment or how this personal “temperature” influences their perception of others or the situation. Other lessons give students the chance to develop resiliency skills, express gratitude, or intervene, should they witness an unkindness.

Open session

One of the practices that we are excited about is Open Session. In Open Session, students have an opportunity to support one another and solve real world problems. During Open Session, students can anonymously put forward a problem they need help solving or a gratitude. The other kids then help by offering problem solving support in the form of empathy, suggestions that might clarify the problem, or wisdom in the form of possible solutions. What we have found so far is that this model develops skills and encourages students to be proactive in working through their own issues.

We are not so naïve as to think that any Advisory program, no matter how powerful, will make being an adolescent easy. Not in a million years. What we do believe is that students grow the most when they have the opportunity to work together and practice targeted skills in a close-knit and caring community.

Join us to learn more

On Thursday, October 24, the Middle School is hosting a SPEAK presentation by Rush Sabiston Frank on the importance of helping young people develop social and emotional learning skills. Rush has been supporting the Middle School faculty in developing our new Advisory program and curriculum. The session will be informative and interactive. I hope you can join us.

With Rush Sabiston Frank
Thursday, October 24, 2019 8:30-9:45 a.m.

Middle School Chowdry Community Room

Middle School students benefit tremendously from practice and instruction in social and emotional skills. Join Rush Sabiston Frank, MS, from the Institute for Social and Emotional Learning for this informative, interactive, and engaging workshop. Rush is a passionate SEL advocate whose work centers on equipping students with the powerful social-emotional practices and increased self- awareness that they instinctively want and need. She and her team have been working collaboratively with the CA Middle School faculty in creating its new advisory program. Come find out why this effort is so important, and why we are so excited for our students. The meeting is preceded by brief MS Parent Association announcements and a question-and-answer session with Bill Wolf-Tinsman, MS principal.