Most teachers have the pastoral role of homeroom teachers (Junior School) or advisors (Senior School). Through this system, teachers get to know a small number of students very well.
It is expected that each of these teachers spend some individual time with each of the students, as well as a group time. In the Junior School, these homeroom times are mostly used for organizational purposes (reviewing the homework for the day, for example). They also cover some of the issues from the Ministry curriculum around health and planning.
In the Senior School, the advisors take on an important role. Each teacher in the Senior School is assigned approximately 10 students. There are two teams of advisors: Senior School MYP and Senior School DP. Each homeroom has two teachers, and the homeroom class is split in half to form advisory groups with one of the two homeroom teachers. The purpose of advisory is for a small group of students to connect meaningfully with one teacher throughout the school year. Advisors are responsible for contacting parents if there is a concern, setting up parent-teacher conferences, writing the Learner Profile comment in each advisee’s report card, and assisting students to successfully navigate the sometimes tricky waters of teen life. Every Thursday, students meet in advisory groups for 20 minutes to discuss items pertinent to their grade. This year, advisory groups have been shuffled considerably, and each advisory group will be part of the same “house”. We will be introducing a plan to rename our house system early in the school year.
The homeroom teachers and advisors become experts in age-related issues. A grade 3 homeroom teacher is expected to be well versed in the needs of an eight year old, and where they are in their development. The teacher is also expected to have an understanding of social issues that are common to that age. Similarly, the Senior School advisors are expected to be knowledgeable of adolescent issues of 13- to 16-year-olds, or 16- to 18-year-olds. Over time, that expertise is built through reading, workshops, and experience.
The homeroom teacher in the Junior School teaches his or her students in at least two areas. In the Junior School PYP, the homeroom teacher is with the students in the homeroom for about 20 hours per week. In the Junior School MYP, the homeroom teacher is with the students for about 10 hours per week. In the Senior School, it is possible that the advisor does not teach the student; therefore, the groups are smaller so that the advisor can work with individuals.
Homeroom teachers and advisors serve several important purposes. Most obviously, it is the homeroom teacher or advisor who prepares the Learner Profile ratings and comments on the report cards. It is the homeroom teacher or advisor who monitors how a student is doing, across all disciplines, and works with other teachers to correct problems. If there is an IEP to be written, the Learning Specialist for Differentiated Learning is responsible for collaborating with teachers to write it, and will submit it to the Director and monitor its progress along with the homeroom teacher or advisor. General parent concerns are first channeled through the homeroom teacher or advisor (note, however, that specific issues are addressed directly with the teacher involved; that is, if a parent has an overall concern, the homeroom teacher or advisor is contacted, but if the concern is about science, the teacher for science is contacted).
The homeroom teachers and advisors are advocates for their students. If there are outside influences on student performance, like family issues, illness, or outside commitments, it is the homeroom teacher or advisor who is informed and is given all of the details, which are then shared with other teachers on an as-needed basis. If there is a psychological assessment done for a child, the Learning Specialist for Differentiated Learning coordinates the implementation of recommendations. If there are serious disciplinary issues, the homeroom teacher or advisor is usually consulted.
In the Junior School, there is daily contact with the homeroom group, so no special times need to be set up. In the Senior School, there is one advisor meeting per week, for 20 minutes right after lunch. This time is very important, and is to be used for either whole-group discussions (grade issues, study skills, etc.) or for a series of individual meetings. Each week at the Senior School administration meeting the plan for the week will be announced.
In the Junior School, the role of the homeroom teacher is generally obvious to parents, but teachers should remind parents of this role, separate from being a subject teacher, at the parent/teacher information evening. In the Senior School, advisors should write a note to each of the parents in the group to introduce themselves and the role of the advisor. They should also have parent email addresses.
At each grade level in the Senior School, there will be a “lead advisor.” This person should meet with their advisors within the grade to discuss areas that need to be addressed in advisory.