Building Belonging in Grade 9 Advisory

Holly Caldwell
Ninth grade marks a special milestone that presents a host of different challenges. To more effectively meet students’ needs and ensure that they will thrive within the classroom and beyond, Shipley revamped its advisory program by forming a specialized team to guide ninth graders through this transitional time.

An Intentional Process

Determining the makeup of advisory groups is an intentional process that begins in the eighth grade. Faculty consider both established friendships and their own propensity to work well with certain students to optimize their communal well-being. The Summer Bridge program also plays an essential role. This orientation is designed to help new ninth graders build connections before embarking on their first year at Shipley.

Beyond the Classroom

Working in tandem with Shipley’s SEED program, advisors help students meet new academic challenges while ensuring their emotional well-being. Individual check-ins, coupled with mentoring reinforce self-advocacy and equip students to thrive in the classroom and beyond. While many students enjoy personal lives on social media, advisory groups offer weekly activities that range in theme from inclusivity to community service trips, which stress the importance of interpersonal relationships and communal well-being. Advisors also work with students on academic and executive functioning skills.

A Dedicated Team of Experts

To handle this pivotal time in students’ lives, the School formed a team of advisors who were not only experts in this age group, but would be dedicated to learning more about their unique characteristics and how to best serve them in the years to come. Ninth Grade Dean Dr. Robert Richard stresses that, “as faculty advisors, we want to ensure that every ninth grader feels part of the Upper School family. We want them to fully take part in building Our House.”

Our House in Upper School

In his first year as Head of Upper School, Kris Ryan set out to build a “Culture of Home” for students and teachers. This year, “Our House” has made clear the values that guide expectations and define cultural norms at Shipley.
>>We Respect ourselves, each other, and the School by holding one another accountable to the values and norms of the community.

>>We seek Growth in knowledge, skill, and empathy while encouraging each other to do the same.

>>We show Responsibility for our feelings and behaviors, and for seeking the well-being of the community.

>>We practice Gratitude, acknowledging and celebrating the many ways that those around us contribute to the success and flourishing of the community.

>>We demonstrate Resilience as we face the inevitable challenges that come our way.

>>We practice Compassion in our relationships and through service learning, as we seek to understand, encourage, and build up those around us.
The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.