Problem Solving Our Way Through High School
Kelly Lazar

Math teacher—my title, a title that defines the love and passion for what I do each and every day in my life. At least that is what I thought before coming to St. Andrew's. Please do not misunderstand me. My goal is for each student to develop a love and joy for math and problem solving not only while he or she is in my class but to embrace the subject so much that he or she can envision committing to future study of the subject.

Math teacher. Scratch that. Advisor. Being an advisor is another way, I've found, to problem solve. I recently spoke with a student preparing his speech for the student body co-presidency in which he mentioned the importance of being comfortable with being uncomfortable. This explained my initial experience serving as an advisor. Through this vital role that we as faculty serve as members of our School community, I have embraced the essence of problem solving. My first year as an advisor—my second year as a faculty member—was equally exciting and scary. One senior, whom I taught the previous year, truly advised me on being an advisor. She had switched advisors for each of her years at SAS, in the hope of finding different perspectives, and she was able to provide me not only with insight but helped guide our conversations during our group functions. In return, I supported her through the process of making a decision on where she would like to continue her learning after St. Andrew's. We are so fortunate to work in a community that has a web of connection and support for each student based on where he or she may be in his or her career at St. Andrew's, and I am so appreciative for all that the college counselors do in order to support my role as an advisor.

Each and every day, our students are faced with decisions that impact the School, the local community, but most importantly their growth as individuals. In The Teenage Brain, Frances E. Jensen writes: "The most important part of the human brain—the place where actions are weighed, situations judged, and decisions made—is right behind the forehead, in the frontal lobes. This is the last part of the brain to develop, and that is why you need to be your teens' frontal lobes until their brains are fully wired and hooked up and ready to go on their own." This passage helped me with one student who recently went through a challenging experience. By listening to him, by asking questions, by helping him work through these moments, I was able to witness this student problem-solve. As Bryan Stevenson told us last year, this was an example of how to be proximate with another. The strength of this community is that our culture allowed this moment to be a point of reflection and learning for the student.

It is not the trips to Brusters, Starbucks, Acme, or even the number of advisory functions that we have in a given month, quarter or year. Rather, it is our ability to support these students as they problem-solve and navigate through their journeys here and transform right before our very eyes, that is so rewarding. Yes, math is crucial, but it is also important that we support these students, as our mission statement asserts, to continue to develop a passion for intellectual pursuits so that each student feels inspired to pursue his or her own individual talents, hopes and dreams. My role as an advisor is problem solving at its core.

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