Why Does a Madeira Girl Have an Advisor?

February 21, 2014
by MA Mahoney, Dean of Academics and Faculty

Madeira adults are fortunate because we are able to expose ourselves to a multitude of ideas and voices which swirl and boom in the great and complex galaxy called Education. One of my favorite speakers and authors is Dr. JoAnn Deak, who has written, among other works, Girls Will be Girls and Why Girls Thrive. If you have already read her works or heard her speak (she gave the keynote at our College Counseling program several years ago), you know that Dr. Deak writes and speaks about adolescent girls with clarity and insight. In Girls Will Be Girls, she describes “core building,” a developmental task for the adolescent female constructing her authentic self. Building the core, as Dr. Deak writes, requires a girl not only to construct herself but to protect this self (“the core”) until it is strong enough to emerge. This protection of core causes some girls to offer a “façade” to the wider world during the teen years.  Deak’s reminder to parents and educators is: “the more a girl feels she is in a safe place to be herself, the more willing she’ll be to step away from the façade, each time a little more confidently” (120).

Well, my job today is to talk with you about advising, not about Dr. Deak. Yet I start with this short summary of one of Deak’s ideas to convey the range of tasks your daughter’s advisor manages. At Madeira, not only do we expect the advisor to help a girl and her family navigate school, with its practices, policies, and expectations, but also we expect the advisor to help a girl (and her family) navigate adolescence. Therefore, the advising role is a complex one, at its finest when the advisor and the girl together have built a working relationship. When a girl and advisor are important people in each other’s school life, advising magic can happen.

What’s advising magic? I wish it were all rainbows and unicorns; alas, it is not. The advisor is the person who will help your daughter figure out how to manage her attendance or how to get herself to class on time when she is having trouble doing so. The advisor is the person who is a great first resource for fall homesickness or spring fever (your daughter’s or yours). And the advisor is the person who can help a girl imagine herself doing something she never thought she’d before, such as run for a leadership role, or try out for a play or a new sport.

The advisor creates that “safe place” Dr. Deak writes about through the tone he or she sets in the weekly advisory meeting, the way he or she is available for one-on-one meetings, and the manner in which he or she conveys belief in each girl. Spending time in that safe place is what allows your daughter to emerge as her authentic self, able to have and share her own thoughts, feelings, and passions. For some girls, finding the authentic adolescent self may take one month; for others, four years; for others longer. There is no race. We respect the snail as much as we do the hare.

Among the many adults at Madeira invested in your daughter’s growth, the advisor is charged with knowing your daughter’s particular age group as well as knowing how your daughter’s growth is unfolding through the school year. Why does your daughter have an advisor? Your daughter has an advisor because we are committed to her growth.