Tea, Tik Tok and togetherness


“I recently hosted a Zoom tea party for my advisee group. We set our backgrounds to various locations - from artsy cafes to quaint and charming tea rooms to super posh tea rooms - and of course, I used the formal china! (Today's brew: Yorkshire Gold, all the way from Harrogate.)

Formal tea room

Virtual backgrounds like this formal tea room add ambiance to an online tea party.

“Rhea ’21 uses virtual backgrounds of hip cafes,” said Music teacher Marisa Green. “Lindsay ’21 usually eats ice cream instead of drinking tea, but we don't judge.”

This spring term, when almost everything feels different, Peddie’s advisee program hasn’t skipped a beat — and that’s in large part because the comfort level in these groups is already so high. The program is built around regular one-on-one meetings between students and their advisors and monthly gatherings to share a meal or a group activity. 

The virtual environment has required advisor Brian Davidson to do some logistical juggling in coordinating group meetings with his advisees, a couple of whom live in Asia. But it hasn’t kept them apart. “If anything, I have talked to my advisor and advisory group more than when we were on campus,” shared freshman Brad Derfner ’23, a member of Davidson’s group.

“What I appreciate most is that there hasn’t been any real kvetching,” said Davidson. “Just talking about shared experiences, some intelligent and thoughtful conversation about the health and economic ramifications of COVID-19, some goofiness about the pitfalls of Zoom, and recently a chance to congratulate a senior in our group on his acceptance to Cornell (Which may have inspired some academic goal-setting for the younger advisees!).”

For academic, social and personal reasons, Peddie’s advisory program is perhaps more critical than ever before, sustaining the tight-knit community and providing an anchor for students as they navigate this new terrain. Advisors check in regularly on an individual basis with students to talk about how their learning is going, how they are balancing family, academics and social needs and most importantly, how they are managing emotionally. Math teacher Mark Gartner values these individual meetings with advisees. “Essentially, I see my role as a check-in point for my kids and to let them know they've got someone on their side here at Peddie who is keeping their best interests at heart,” he said.

Group advisory meetings tend to be a bit more light-hearted, making full use of digital tools and tricks for entertainment. Groups wear party hats to celebrate birthdays and college acceptances, share recipes and funny Tik-Tok videos and play Pictionary.

silly video chat

Sometimes group meetings are light and silly - and that feels just right.

English teacher Diku Rogers’ advisees love their video calls together - even if they aren’t talking much. “My group just loves being silly, and their ability to keep things light, even during a tough time, brightens my day!” she said. “To me, this speaks to how connected they feel, even far away from each other.”

Ryann ’23 appreciates the regular connection with both her advisor and her peers. “My advisory group meets once a week to catch up, play games, and check-in. My advisor is so good about making sure that all of us are doing well and not overwhelmed with everything going on. It’s a reminder that we are all going through the same thing and have someone to talk to.”