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Improving Students’ Sense of Belonging at EMK

Teacher: Gabriel Avruch
School: Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers

The Challenge:
95% of EMK students are black or latinx, and 60% of our students are classified as economically disadvantaged. Based on Panorama student survey data, we identified that students were feeling disconnected form the school community, so we identified the challenge of bringing these students back into the EMK school community.

What did your team do about it?:
In order to increase student engagement, the team created an original SEL/DBT/community building based Advisory curriculum. Advisory met once per week for 50 minutes, and the team provided lessons plans and power points for the entire staff to lead their weekly Advisories

Impact on Students:
Unfortunately due to school closure, we weren’t able to collect the data we had hoped for regarding Advisory’s impact on students’ sense of belonging to the EMK community. However, there are many anecdotal stories of students wanting more time for Advisory, students saying Advisory was their favorite class of the week, and staff reporting how they were able to form closer relationships with students in a non academic setting that they were able to then leverage in their classrooms.

Teacher Leadership and School Community:
We learned that it is absolutely necessary to make Professional developments around Advisory engaging and team based – this ensured staff buy in. We learned to keep the PD friendly, responsive, and supportive, as opposed to proscriptive. There was some roadblocks, such as some staff buy in to Advisory, but nothing majorly detrimental.

What’s Next?
Ideally, we would like to continue the Advisory program at EMK indefinitely. Over the summer the team will continue to meet, tweak, and refine lesson plans, as well as consider necessary changes and considerations for the upcoming SY 20-21.

Helping Others:
We can’t offer links so much as the sentiment that it is important to remember that the project is about the kids and their needs, and that comes first. Sometimes managing the flow of ideas or work on the team seemed to take the front seat, but it always grounded me to remember the purpose of the work.