‘Driveway Moments’ Provide Inspiration for Engaging Advisory Experiences

PPHS Student Presenting

‘Driveway Moments’ Provide Inspiration for Engaging Advisory Experiences

By Ronni Moore

Halloween morning, as I pulled into the darkened parking lot across from the school, I put my car into park as I listened intently to the radio. The final few minutes of a story on NPR about the Haitian origins of the zombie were so interesting that I couldn’t get out of the car until I heard the end.  We NPR nerds call this a “driveway moment” and that morning, while listening to Morning Edition, I had my favorite kind of driveway moment--gripped by a story I knew my students would find interesting.  


I smiled at the find as I hurriedly scribbled the name of the reporter and a few key details from the piece on the closest piece of scrap paper I could find. I stuffed the note in my pocket, slid my backpack on and ran through the pouring rain to the school building to find Coach Symcox.


I dried off before the morning meeting as I eagerly awaited her arrival. Coach Symcox is a fellow NPR nerd, so I was excited to find out if she had been listening too. She had, and as we chatted excitedly about how perfect it would be for the morning’s advisory, I shifted the advisory slides around to add the story in.


Advisory is my absolute favorite part of the school day. It is a time in our daily schedule where we talk with students about anything under the sun.  Driveway moment stories often become engaging hooks that have preceded many deep and meaningful conversations. None of the students are regular NPR listeners (yet!), but many have mentioned that listening to podcast stories is among their favorite advisory activities.


We listen as we complete coloring pages to powerful, personal stories about the human condition. (Coloring enhances focus and concentration.) These conversation-starting, thought-provoking stories are mostly mined from This American Life, The TED RadioHour and RadioLab, but students’ favorite stories so far have come from the NPR podcast “Snap Judgment,” which, like RadioLab, artfully combines storytelling and music. 


Advisory blends social and emotional learning with pop culture and history. While advisory lesson objectives change from day to day, one major goal for advisory is to learn more about ourselves and others and to contribute positively to each other’s lives and, ultimately, peacefully coexist.


We begin advisory every day in a circle. The circle represents and reinforces our connectedness and allows for everyone to be seen and heard. Students are given the opportunity to talk but they are not forced to speak. 


We learn to take space and make space.  This is my favorite of our “norms” as it advises us to contribute and leave room for others to contribute as well. Our speaking piece reminds us of who has the floor and pointing to it gives everyone a silent reminder, helping us to maintain productive conversation.


In the past few months, among other things, we have talked about what September 11th was like, why and how to (respectfully) celebrate Latino History Month, the Guyger case, the Syrian Civil War, gun control measures and yes, the zombie origin story.  


We don’t always agree (quite the opposite!) and that is expected and ok. We are learning how to converse and relate to each other, how to respond with grace and understanding, how to productively disagree and what to do when a conversation drifts or, even, careens into an uncomfortable space. We allow for productive silence and protect our brave space (note: brave not safe) by recognizing and differentiating between the intent and impact of our words and actions.


This work is messy and it’s hard and it’s fun and it is never done. We have our ideas challenged, we take chances, we offend, we get offended, we forgive, we are affirmed, we learn how to understand each other and why that understanding is important. We are stretched in new, unexpected and important ways. We build community through sharing experience. Then, we fist bump to close the circle out. By the end, my sincere hope is that my students have learned and grown at least as much as I have.


I had another driveway moment this weekend. It was the origin story of the patriotic song “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” And as This American Life tells it, the popular song started as a celebratory hymn for an American terrorist. Our next advisory conversation should be interesting...


Published on 11/4/2019