Advisory, community circles strive to connect school

Senior+Kaedyn+Colton+uses+Advisory+to+catch+up+on+his+homework.+Later%2C+he%27ll+join+his+fifth+period+in+a+relaxing+game+of+Among+Us.

Haley Kilcoyne

Senior Kaedyn Colton uses Advisory to catch up on his homework. Later, he’ll join his fifth period in a relaxing game of Among Us.

Haley Kilcoyne, Staff Writer

The school’s opening day left it oddly separated – with a third of the population learning virtually while the rest walked into sanitized halls they hadn’t seen since March – but it’s always been a navy empire.

Now, with the addition of community circles, it’s trying to forge a closer community.

Administration originally established an advisory period, which houses the circles, to rework the school’s schedule around the new D lunch.

“We were struggling to fit in the cafeteria already,” principal Dr. Mike Metz said. “And then with the social distancing protocols and guidelines, there was really no choice.”

Despite advisory’s primary purpose – fitting a new schedule – the counseling staff saw it as a unique opportunity. According to head counselor Lashelle Nix, “we kind of killed two birds with one stone.”

“Community circles were not created because of Covid. Community circles have been a big push. It’s just that sometimes it takes a crisis for people to feel like we have to do this, and that’s what Covid was,” Nix said.

Community circles – also known as ‘restorative circles’ to Tomball Independent School Districts’ counseling department – come every Monday during advisory’s allotted time. Their purpose: community-building.

“Students in our school come from all different kinds of homes and all different kinds of friends and family dynamic situations. I think it gives students an opportunity to give them a voice and feel connected to someone else,” Metz said.

Sometimes it takes a crisis for people to feel like we have to do this, and that’s what Covid was.”

— Counselor Lashelle Nix

Each Friday, teachers are given ‘scripts’ – a series of talking points, questions, and mental exercises created by the district counseling department. These scripts aim to guide students to be more mindful of their situations and mental health, while also working to strengthen relationships that were lost over quarantine.

“It’s a tool for teachers to build a rapport with students. It gives an early connection point to help teachers know what questions to ask about their students next.” Nix said.

Community circles also work to help teachers obtain a foundation to learn more about their students and potentially catch a student’s warning signs.

“I think my students really need it,” math teacher Jamie Rush said. “It really has helped me to better understand my students.”

Advisory, on the other hand, focuses less on building student relationships. Instead, advisory is used as a period of downtime for students.

“I use advisory for homework,” junior Hayden Lopez said. “And for napping, if I’m really feeling stressed. I really like having a break time.”

While lasting effects have yet to be seen, community circles and advisory both aim to help students who may feel overwhelmed between school and the broad effects of Covid.

“All in all, community circles are like Shattered Lives,” Metz said. “If it impacts one person it’s worth it. If this creates a situation in which one kid feels more connected, or able to make a connection with someone else that they otherwise would never have made, then it’s worth it.”