The student news site of Francis W. Parker School

The Parker Weekly

The student news site of Francis W. Parker School

The Parker Weekly

The student news site of Francis W. Parker School

The Parker Weekly

Cate’s Call

What does advisory mean to me?
Photo credit: The Parker Weekly

To some, advisory is a classroom, to others it’s a twenty minute free period, or to the lucky few (and I’m one of them) it’s a family. Though quintessentially Parker, advisory is something that’s unique to each student. To some, it’s not even singular, instead more of a journey with multiple destinations. With so many exceptional, caring teachers, most students eventually find an advisor who offers them the support they need, which is certainly what’s most important. But, advisory is also meant to be a community. Finding an actual advisory that fits, where time’s spent meaningfully and where you can belong, isn’t as simple as finding the advisor—it’s a whole different story. It’s no secret that there are some good advisors and some bad, some advisory groups that just click, and others that are more of a multi-grade jumble. 

The advisory system is a lottery—and I was lucky enough to win the four-year grand prize. Well, truthfully, my eighth-grade advisor probably had my back in the draw. From our original advisory, I was the only person without an older sibling, a last name and legacy to recognize.

When I think of advisory, many words come to mind: Pictionary, nearbucks, Martenelli’s, lost sympathy meters, magnets, and softballs. I could describe our advisory in forms of lunch: Jack’s coveted Fig Newtons, Stacy’s pita chips, Naomi’s liquid mashed potatoes, and Brian’s butterscotch oatmeal cookies. I could talk about the many places: Frances’ Deli, the Pancake House, or West Webster sidewalks. I could show you our advisory wall (soon to become walls), pictures and mementos that capture a great deal of who we are. But, the only real way to describe or get to know our advisory is through the people.

While I have many families at Parker, none is quite as special as the Bigelow advisory. Unlike most advisories, Mr. Bigelow’s advisory is always made up of a cohort of different personalities, interests, and friend groups all from one grade. 

I can’t lie, though. Our four years began on a pretty peculiar note. Everything about freshman year over Zoom was a mystery to our class of 2024, and–even though eight of us had known each other since kindergarten–advisory was no exception. Having not seen each other in months, we were all a bit awkward. Our one new-to-Parker student, who I first met in these biweekly meetings, was the quietest of the bunch. Who knew that this seemingly shy girl named Quinn would become one of my best friends. 

Even online, without our favorite couch, Mr. Bigelow made advisory a safe space. Even when most of us had absolutely nothing going on, we all checked in and shared how we were doing. Unshockingly, Sam always brought some unholy amount of energy. Paul never forgot his DJ headphones, and Massi made sure to crush everyone in Pictionairy by hacking the game’s website and uploading entire pixelated images each turn.

When second semester rolled around, we were all relieved to do this “hybrid” thing, but, even back in the building, advisory was still awkward and new. It was like first grade all over again, sitting in separated desks as we ate our lunches. Nevertheless, we made the best of what we had and spent the extra time together bonding over our shared experiences. We watched Harry’s marble racing videos and some really intense professional table tennis matches. By the end of the year, we were finally able to take our first advisory picture (which you can find on the wall). In many ways, it was like our time had just begun.

Back sophomore September, with the addition of our three new advisees, Ethan, CE Baller (Connor), and Naomi, we were off to the races. We just clicked. The back corner of room 486 quickly became a place we could call our second home. As we devoured drawers upon drawers of snacks, we talked about the good and bad: roses, buds and thorns. We heard many an impassioned Sam Forst sermon, took long walks to Farbucks, had our first advisory Thanksgiving, and even made it down to Deming when the Upper School became COVID infested right before winter break when the future caulk-gifter was banned from attending secret santa (or secret present-giver, whatever we call it).

Ironically, although joy and laughter are the first things that come to mind when I think of advisory, the 12 of us are nothing if not serial complainers (especially Jack). Seriously, Mr. Bigelow has heard it all. We’re not perfect in the least. We frequently catch each other crossing lines, shouting curses, looking at our phones, or cutting off the person speaking. We’re occasionally forced to shun some of the males in the group for talking over the females. Mistakes are always made with passion and never ill-intent, but Mr. Bigelow has taught us to act with maturity and check one another. He’s even had (on very rare occasions) to check himself. We’ve gotten better at flipping it back, asking Mr. Bigelow how he is doing. Even with our many imperfections, what’s most meaningful is that we just get to be human together. 

Many things have changed for the 12 of us since freshman year. On top of all the joy, our advisory has also been a space to talk about the difficult stuff. We’ve expressed legitimate frustrations, experienced shared grief, and voiced much needed opinions. Advisory has been the space for whatever we collectively need most.

For me, advisory has been the absolute epitome of community. Nothing about the way we show up for one another is performative. Our love is real. When I think about graduating in June, it’s the remarkable friendships I’ve made with my 11 advisees and many other peers, the people that I don’t necessarily hang out with every weekend but that I’ve grown to care for so deeply, that make the notion of leaving so hard.

I can’t imagine my high school years without the Bigelow advisory, and I am grateful to Parker for that. Without a doubt, though, I give the most credit for the experience to my fellow advisees: Paul, Jack, Ethan, Natalie, Connor, Sam, Massimo, Audrey, Naomi, Quinn, Harry, and, of course, our buddy, Mr. Bigelow. I don’t think any piece of writing could do our vibrant, one-of-a-kind chosen family justice. As I write this in bittersweet reflection and anticipation of our final advisory Thanksgiving tomorrow, I guess what I really want to say is thank you.

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About the Contributor
Cate O'Connor
Cate O'Connor, Columnist
New to "The Weekly," Cate O'Connor joins the staff this year as a columnist eager to share her calls on all things Parker and beyond. When busy typing up her most exciting thoughts for said column, you'll likely find her sipping either a blue la croix, green tea, or strawberry lemonade. During the rest of her time, Cate enjoys playing field hockey and softball with her teammates, crafting layouts for SCOUT, interviewing candidates with SIRB, or taking to the podium gavel in-hand.