By Lauren Williamson ’19
Coming to Randolph and being a part of a smaller advisory family within the larger Randolph community means so much, and I want to share that with people already a part of it, as well as those who may be looking at Randolph as a possibility.
On a humid, early August day, 12 gawky freshmen arrived in Room 303 after climbing two flights of stairs to the third floor, the ascension then comparable to hiking a small mountain.
"Welcome to high school!"
Our advisor, Mrs. Lawson, cheerily greeted us with an enthusiastic, “Welcome to high school! Let’s go around and introduce ourselves.” In turn, we mumbled our names and something “interesting” about ourselves. Quickly, we, along with Mrs. Lawson, realized just how different we all were from each other. Our high school advisory was an unusual mix of lifers, fifers, fishing fanatics, straight-A students, stars on the track and football teams, and me: completely new to Randolph, just hoping to fit in.
There was zero guarantee we would fit together. All 12 of us arrived every day to advisory check-in, silently staring at our phones to avoid staring at each other or worse, forming cliques of four or five and excluding everyone else. At least the five minutes spent there were over quickly, we thought. Then came Thursdays, which were even more tense. The 45 minutes spent “bonding” with ice breaker games and talking about ourselves and our classes were painfully awkward. Many endless minutes were spent looking out of the glass windows, wishing we were on the Commons lawn or in the rolling hills our advisory faced.
Slowly, though, we began to learn a few things we all had in common: we shared an outgoing spirit and an advisor who cared about us and very much wanted for us all to bond with one another.
Our group dynamic started to change for the better that first year when an advisory volunteer project was decreed. At Mrs. Lawson’s prompting, we put our 12 heads together and came up with our first coherent idea as a group. Combining our love of the outdoors and helping the fish, we decided to choose a waterway in Huntsville and pick up debris and garbage. Our next task was to make a sign for our idea: this became our first piece of advisory artwork.
Our first advisory artwork consisted of a small white poster-sized paper turned long ways, reading ‘Fish Y’all!’ in blue script. Three poorly drawn, multicolored fish were the only decoration at the bottom of the paper. As we made this artwork to celebrate our first advisory event together, we engaged with each other in planning where to go to pick up trash and when we should go.
On an otherwise normal Thursday in the fall of our sophomore year, my advisory was devouring the Goldfish and Gushers one of us had signed up to bring when Mrs. Lawson suggested that we make another craft. Begrudgingly, we stopped eating snacks, unrolled another white poster sheet and hung it up in the middle of the giant white board.
Mrs. Lawson showed us how it was done, and one by one we dipped our thumbs in the kaleidoscope of ink colors Mrs. Lawson had spread out for the twelve of us. We laughed and made jokes as we pressed our thumbs simultaneously onto the paper. Then, we each wrote our names with a thin black pen and drew a defining characteristic, like a football or, of course, a fishing pole.
Mrs. Lawson’s jokes about each one of our thumbprint self portraits allowed us to laugh at ourselves, and made it okay for others to laugh at them, too. After all, we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously, she reminded us. After we finished our thumbprint characters of ourselves, we wrote ‘A family portrait of Mrs. Lawson’s Advisory’ at the top and hung it up on the wall right next to ‘Fish Y’all’.
The next craft we did at the end of sophomore year brought us together in a way the thumbprint caricatures had not. We arranged the grey desks in a small circle, and one of us grabbed a pink marker and yet another white poster sheet. After attaching it to the white board via small square magnets, we drew three concentric circles on the poster. The biggest circle was things we were given, such as being Alabamian, the middle was things we’ve chosen, like religion and sports, and the smallest was the “core” of who we were and what we held dear as a group, such as snacks, our annual volunteer event, and our inside joke of “ppo”, which was born from the simple mistake of reading the word “odd” upside down on a piece of paper.
Technically, this craft was the same activity we had all done individually freshmen year. This time, though, emerging from the chrysalis of our former awkward selves, we all engaged with each other in adding things we had in common to the circles. Mrs. Lawson supervised from her expansive and overcrowded wooden desk in the corner of the room, and she let us lead the activity. Her work of teaching her advisees to relate to one another had been acknowledged by us all, and the effects of her pushing each of us to get out of our comfort zone was apparent as we sat in a circle, including everyone in conversation.
Our differing personalities, guided by Mrs. Lawson, helped the twelve of us relate to each other even more so than if we had all been friends in the first place. Over the course of two short years, the 12 gawky freshmen who entered Room 303 on the first day of high school, became a group of confident juniors who can start a meaningful conversation with anyone in the room. We school together like the most unlikely group of fish, with Mrs. Lawson as the leader. My advisory captures what Randolph is really all about: embracing your differences, learning how to relate to one another, and becoming a more enriched person by applying those things to your life.
I came to Randolph freshmen year (with my twin sister, Julia), and it absolutely changed my life for the better. As a junior, I balance a busy school schedule with figure skating. I skate six days a week and teach lessons at the Ice Complex. I'm a Head Delegate in Model UN, serve as Vice President of our High School Democrats of America Chapter (I'm the communications director on the executive board of the State Chapter). I'm the Youth Leadership Council's Director of Tutoring, Optimist Club Vice President, first chair French Horn in band, and makeup and hair stylist for Theatre Randolph.
As hectic as my weekly schedule is, I know that my teachers and peers are always willing to help me with anything I need, something I haven't found at any other school. The added support of advisory is really special to me because as a group we've grown a lot in character over the past two-and-a-half years, and it's nice to know that I'll see the same group of people in the same place every morning... some stability in the chaos. I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity to attend Randolph and I think it's unique things like advisory that really make the experience personal.