Advisory overhaul: mixed-gender groups
In early 2021, Berkley Duckson from the class of 2020 died in a snowmobile accident. The students from that grade, all at that point freshmen in college, gathered for a funeral to mourn their classmate.
And then the faculty began to notice something.
“One side of the room, there’s all the boys, and on the other side of the room, there’s all the girls,” said Mike DiNardo, principal of the Upper School. “Like, that’s weird. Why is that?”
“Sometimes, we’re very segregated,” said Christine Paton, one of MA’s counselors. “It’s like all the boys over here and all the girls over there and both don’t really know how to talk to each other.”
So here’s the solution: mixed advisories.
“I think it’s [separated advisories] been done that way for 20 years, and it was time to reevaluate, like why are we doing this?” said Paton.
It actually came down to several reasons: First of all, it makes hiring a whole lot easier.
“If a leaving teacher had a male advisor group, do I have to hire a male then, to keep that even? I don’t want to hire a male, I want to hire the best candidate. So if that’s a female, I want to hire a female,” said DiNardo.
Students struggling with gender identity may appreciate the change as well.
“If we have a student who is identifying as nonbinary and they feel like ‘I don’t fit in this group,’ having a mixed gender group makes it more comfortable then and more equitable.” said Paton.
Also, students coming in from the middle school, who had mixed advisories previously, won’t have a change, and the new students won’t generally know the difference.
“And we don’t want to fall into patterns,” said Paton. “I don’t think every girl wants to sit and make crepes or sew or knit. And then some girls want to go play competitive sports and have competitions where the boys tend to do that, and not every boy wants that. Some boys do sew and do cook and things like that.”
I think the main idea is, how can we get boys and girls to mix together and talk to each other? How do you get to know people of the opposite sex and make that a more comfortable feeling?” said DiNardo.
“One of our core values is community. We want everybody to feel like they belong.” said Paton.
“Really, I think it solves more problems than it creates,” said DiNardo.