What They Don’t Teach You in Advisory

It''s a painful waste of time. And it's mandatory for high school students in most of Los Angeles (and possibly many other parts of the country). It's the class most teachers probably never wanted to teach, and most students wonder why they have to take it.

When I was in high school a thousand years ago, we had this thing called “homeroom.”   We would occasionally meet for 10 minutes in homeroom to handle simple business such as receiving our report cards, or voting for class president.

Now homeroom has morphed into something called "advisory." It's a required class, usually 2-3 hours a week for four years.

What is learned in Advisory?

Now that's a tricky question, and nobody I've ever spoken to seems to have a precise answer. The general goal seems to be to prepare students for college and a career.

There are no lesson plans or curriculum for advisory. The best I can do is invent various activities to make my students write, talk, and design posters about their plans for college. They roll their eyes in boredom, or try to text each other when they think I'm not looking. And I don't blame them, really. I think we're doing them a terrible disservice.

The people who dreamed up Advisory are trying to give the poorest inner-city kids a middle class education. This might have been commendable 40 years ago. But college is not the great career-maker it used to be.

Unless you get an advanced degree in a difficult subject which you're very passionate about and which is in high demand, college is unlikely to lead directly to wealth.

In most advisory classes, there is no discussion of any alternatives to college. Virtually nothing about how to get a college education on the cheap. And precious little about scholarships.

Here's what they don't tell you in advisory:

  • You can acquire all the knowledge a college degree would provide, and get it free of charge, on the internet
  • You can send out 100 resumes and compete with the masses--or you can do something that will make you stand out, and all the employers will come to you
  • There are thousands of ways you can create your own job, and make your own opportunities
  • You can start your own business for $100 or less. Someone even wrote a book about how to do this: The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future
  • If you really need to go to college, which is probably the case for most science, engineering, or medical jobs, there are a lot of ways to save money in the process

I went to college, and now I make my living as a science teacher, which generally requires a college degree (although it shouldn't).

But I also spent a few years selling walking tours in Rome. I hustled tens of thousands of dollars by promoting myself as a marketing copywriter. I've earned money as a musician, a tour guide, even as a poet once. I had a blast doing most of these things, and none of them required a college degree.

I think it's far more important to teach students to be independent, to have confidence in themselves and to create their own opportunities. Especially in today's economy, when more and more people are chasing fewer jobs. This generally isn't mentioned in advisory.

College is only one small piece of the success picture, and it's not always an essential piece. It shouldn't be treated as the only piece, which is what it often becomes in advisory.

When I teach anyone, whether in my classroom or on my website, they're going to see that they have almost everything they need within themselves. You are a lot more creative, talented, and resourceful than you probably realize.

There are many roads that you can take in life. I advise you not to feel limited by what you learn in advisory.



2 Replies to “What They Don’t Teach You in Advisory”

  1. Hear hear! I am a teacher and advisory is annoying, unwanted intrusion. Kids don’t like it, teachers don’t know what to do with it. But your ideas aren’t a full solution. If we don’t teach kids about college who else will teach them?

  2. Thanks for your comments, Dennis! Regarding what will happen if we don’t teach our kids about college–well, they probably hear about it almost every day in school. If a kid wants to go to college, she’ll be able to find out anything she needs to know. Nobody “taught’ me about college but I found the information I needed on my own. Today it’s a lot easier to get information. I still think it’s more important to help kids decide whether college is their best option, and show them how to get through college with as little debt as possible. Just my 2 cents. Thanks for your comment 🙂

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