This spring, faculty advisors Anna Wronsky, Miriam Walden, Patrick Kochyan, and Jackie Rose focused the ninth grade advisory program on empathy skill-building and trained in council, a method of story sharing developed by the Ojai Foundation. Council provides a space where students can voice their opinions and share their stories, knowing they will be heard by their peers without comment or judgment.
To prepare for council meetings, each ninth grade advisory gathers around their council centerpiece, a collaborative work of art to which every student has made a contribution. Students speak and listen from the heart while responding to questions such as “Tell a story about a time when you connected with someone unexpected” or “Tell a story about a time when you incorrectly assumed something about someone.” These open-ended prompts invite participants to share their stories in a confidential and supportive space. Following the question round, ninth graders engage in a witness round, in which each student says a word or phrase that she heard and that resonated with her. Over the course of the spring semester, the ninth grade advisors have noticed the positive effect council has had on the way in which our ninth graders interact with one another. This structured, shared experience has initiated an important process of helping ninth graders share their experiences and values, listen carefully to one another, and reflect on how each story resonates in their own lives.