The West Allis-West Milwaukee School District’s vision statement is “to create experiences that build community and empower learners so they can live life on their own terms.” Here at Dottke, we strive to ensure that our learners have the necessary tools to do just that. To do so, we had to change our systems in a way that gave students the opportunity to make their own choices, advocate for themselves, and grow into independent and responsible young adults.
One way in which students are given the freedom to hone these skills, while still feeling safe and supported, is through Advisory.
Advisory at Dottke is different from Advisory at the other schools. Our third floor is almost entirely made up of three Advisory spaces- each made up of two conjoined classrooms where each student is given their own desk space to customize and utilize throughout the day. Since we don’t have a need for lockers, this space serves as a home-base for students when they are not in a class or seminar. This makes for a unique and free-flowing work environment.
Advisories are cohorts composed of 3-4 Crews (Crew serving as an elevated homeroom). This way, students foster strong community bonds with other students within the Advisory, and have frequent check-ins and support from their Crew teacher and a small group of other trusted teachers.
So what do students do in Advisory? Well, it can serve several purposes.
Project-based learning can be tough. Students take between 4-5 seminars and classes where they are expected to create rigorous and authentic projects that require time and effort outside of the classroom. To ensure that students have enough time to create those projects and stay on top of course work, we schedule in specific Advisory times within a student’s day. Additionally, some students need additional time and support to complete classwork outside of it’s scheduled time, and it can be useful to have the flexibility of adding extra Advisory time if needed.
As part of our flexibility and empowerment of our learners, students are able to earn credits without needing to take a seminar. Students can earn credits at their own pace using our project model during Advisory time or outside of school. Students will work with an Advisor to create a plan, track their progress, and complete a project that meets all of a course’s requirements to earn that credit. It is a great way for students to explore their own interests that may not be offered through a scheduled seminar.
Volunteering or Job Shadowing
Some students are not in need of additional work time or credit, but want to fill their time with something meaningful. We have a number of opportunities around the building for students to become involved, such as the Aquaponics Lab and Community Closet. In these spaces, students can volunteer their time to keep those spaces up and running, learning valuable skills along the way. Additionally, we can assist students with finding job shadowing opportunities that they can do during their Advisory time and that they could use for resume building and career exploration.
Through this flexible and personalized time, students will learn time management, collaboration, effective communication, self-direction, and grit. All of which will teach students how to be successful beyond graduation when they are living life on their own terms.