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School Stories

Reimaging Middle School Advisory

By Steve Collins, Grade 7 Science Teacher and Anna Phelan, Music Teacher
Care, connection, balance, and belonging. These four words encapsulate the mission of the Graland advisory program - a program that is an integral part of the Middle School experience. Starting every school day in small advisory groups provides time each morning for our community to build supportive relationships, practice important character and life skills, and focus on our individual and collective well-being.
This summer, we (Steve Collins, Grade 7 science teacher, and Anna Phelan, music teacher) spearheaded a summer grant project focused on growing and aligning the Middle School advisory program. The full team included a wide range of Middle School perspectives and benefited from the expertise of Kimm Lucas (Grade 5 English), Jolene Collier (Grade 6 Math), Kelly Gaudet (Grade 7 English), Erik Burrell (Grades 7/8 Dean), and Oscar Gonzalez (Director of Director of Equity and Inclusivity).

As a team, we were able to take advantage of the ideas, recommendations, and resources provided by previous and current Graland planning teams. This included the 2015 and 2018 advisory groups as well as the 2021-22 task forces focused on strategic planning, character development, and the Challenge Success program. 

Initial research and discussions as a team helped us develop a common vision for advisory and write a succinct and easy-to-remember mission statement. Our firm, collective belief is that advisory should be a space of care, connection, balance, and belonging - or C2B2 for short. From that, we worked on a set of guiding principles to help us achieve our mission. Ultimately, we decided that advisory should center on Graland’s core aspects of character (agency, adaptability, curiosity, responsibility, and empathy) with a specific focus on celebrating and nurturing individuality, community, and compassion.

To achieve our mission and honor Graland’s guiding principles, our planning team created a set of Middle School-wide advisory agreements. These included creating and using a highly collaborative and transparent advisory spreadsheet to plan week-by-week activities, developing a set of DEI-focused, community conversation activities to support our annual Community Day, and celebrating student advisory projects on bulletin boards in the Middle School hallways.

It is our hope that advisory provides Middle School students and faculty a soft place to land where they can feel welcomed, safe, and supported. To make sure our program continues to grow and flourish all year, our team recommended that Graland create a group of Middle School advisory representatives, one from each grade, to work together with Mr. Gonzalez throughout the year. They will regularly revisit the Middle School advisory program agreements and help ensure the program is intentional, aligned, and that students are thriving. To our great delight, this team of advisory reps is already in place and taking a lead role in guiding our program.  

The summer grant team is grateful for the time, space, and support provided by Graland to slow down over the summer and reflect on how to best serve our students. We are excited for a great year ahead! 


We Asked: How do you hope students will benefit from your summer grant advisory work?

Kimm Lucas, Grade 5 English
“I hope that Graland students will continue to be excited by advisory, building upon the foundation which was established in Lower School morning meetings. We strive to make the advisory program in Middle School have continuity between the grades, so ideas, skills, and activities are not taught in isolation and forgotten about when kids move to the next grade.” 

Jolene Collier, Grade 6 Math
“I hope Graland students will benefit from this work with more meaningful and aligned advisory lessons, which will help all students feel care, connection, balance, and belonging.”

Erik Burrell, Grades 7/8 Dean
“Coordinating the scope and sequence of advisory throughout the Middle School will have a direct impact on students’ social-emotional learning.”

Kelly Gaudet, Grade 7 English Teacher
“Our collective hope is that Graland students will benefit from an enhanced advisory program that allows us to cultivate deeper connections with our own advisories. The bonds that can arise from thoughtful, respectful advisory spaces can become some of the more powerful relationships students have by the end of Middle School.”

Oscar Gonzalez, Director of Equity & Inclusivity
“With greater alignment and clarity of purpose, the Middle School advisory will allow for a focus on care, connection, balance, and belonging to build upon an already strong program. Students will cultivate compassion, honor individuality, and build community to ensure we thrive as a community.” 

Graland Country Day School

Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1927, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.