An Intentional Pause: Inclusive Downtime in Advisory and Homeroom
In our students’ over-scheduled and busy days, there is a critical need for educators to offer windows where students can pause, catch their breath, and experience a sense of calm and belonging. Advisory Programs can provide a wonderful place for this kind of pause.
From our work as advisors, advisory coordinators, and having worked with schools worldwide, we recommend that about one-third of the time in Advisory in middle and high schools is protected for intentional and inclusive downtime.
Sometimes a whole Advisory period could be dedicated to downtime, while other times, it might just be the first or last 10-15 mins of the period. It’s essential to explain the idea and rationale for downtime to your advisees and clarify with your fellow advisors what does and what doesn’t count as downtime. This consistency across advisories is crucial.
For many schools, snacks can be a key element of Advisory generally, and downtime specifically. IFSEL believes that sharing (and perhaps even preparing) food together brings a sense of connection and belonging. This is harder if educators have had to navigate social distancing.
“Downtime in Advisory might feel a bit like a big family meal - with the focus on each other and ourselves, but without any structured lessons or activities.”
Both in and outside of school, our students’ schedules are getting busier and busier. For many students, this busy-ness can be exciting, tiring, and overwhelming. In the schools we work with, we often hear students ask for more time to connect, catch their breath, and sometimes just ‘be.’ Research backs up this issue.
One way to think of downtime is as space for ‘free-form attention.’ University of Southern California researcher, Helen Immordino-Yang, has written extensively on education and the adolescent brain. She argues that “Free-form attention is extremely important for being able to make sense of what you’re doing. This network seems to be... activated when you’re resting and just daydreaming, thinking about your memories, imagining things that don’t exist here and now. You need both modes of attention (free-form and on-task) in order to function in the world” (Immordino- Yang, 2018).
59% of high schoolers felt that a lack of sleep is a major stressor in their lives, while 52% felt that a lack of time to play, relax or be with family or friends was a similar major stressor. - Challenge Success
Ideas to shape and give meaning to downtime:
Including downtime in your Advisory Program requires agreement and buy-in from all advisors. Here are some questions to discuss:
- What purpose would downtime in Advisory serve for our student population?
- Is downtime tech-free? IFSEL recommends that it is, so that the focus is on
ourselves and each other.
- Can downtime be used as a study hall? How to protect downtime when students
ask for time to study?
- What to do if advisees ask for downtime when you have a grade-wide Advisory
activity already planned?