Two years into the new schedule at Oyster River High School (ORHS) many students are getting help that they need from teachers, working on homework, or studying during Flex time. However, some students are finding themselves using their fifty minute Flex time as a break in their day where they merely catch up with friends and socialize. They are finding themselves bored and having nothing to do. These students will be happy to know that there are now enrichment activities taking place during this time.
There is a period of time in students’ schedules called “Flex” where all students go to an assigned room. They go to their advisory room by default because sometimes this time of day is used for advisory while other times it is used for Flex. During this time, students are able to schedule out to other classrooms and get help from teachers, if needed. Sometimes students do not have any questions for teachers, have finished all of their homework, and are left with nothing to do. To ensure that students are using the time that they are given wisely and have options, enrichment activities have started taking place during certain Flex periods and will be continuing throughout the year.
The Flex Committee, a small group of staff, meet periodically throughout the school year to discuss the pros and cons of Flex time. This year, the committee has been focusing on ensuring that students make the most of the time. The committee decided that it would be beneficial for students to have the opportunity to sign up for enrichment activities that are active and/or relaxing, run by teachers for the times where students have no work or just feel like they need a break. The committee is working hard to make sure that all students know about these activities and try them out if they are interested.
Mark Milliken, Dean of Faculty at ORHS, runs the Flex Committee meetings and is excited for students to take advantage of the enrichment activities. He thinks that it is a great opportunity for students in the event that they have no homework or questions for their teachers. “We’re hoping that we can just keep adding more and more [enrichment activities] so that kids, if they’ve done all their homework, your grades are good, you don’t need to see a teacher, or you just need a break, have some of those opportunities,” said Milliken.
Katie Johnson, a math teacher at ORHS and member of the Flex Committee, notices that students are using Flex when they need to, and are used to the way that it works. “I think that students are finally getting into a rhythm of utilizing Flex as far as academics go, but I think a lot of students, especially my students, still have nothing to do during Flex or anywhere they need to go, so it would be fun to have a plethora of options for them to sign up and do,” said Johnson. Johnson’s advisory is not the only advisory that students find themselves having minimal work to do during this time period.
“I feel like during Flex, if people don’t have anything to do they kind of just sit there and socialize, so it might be fun for them to have the opportunity to do something else,” said Cecelia Drysdale (‘20). Drysdale explained that she uses the time that she is given well and meets with teachers when necessary; however, she still occasionally finds herself with no work to do.
When students do not have any work, some advisors might force them to schedule out of their room and go to a different teacher in order to make room for other students to come in. “When I have stuff to do [during Flex] I’ll schedule out to teachers if I have questions, but a lot of the time […] when it comes to Flex time and our teachers force us to Flex out, it’s hard because we are told we have to do stuff,” siad Jenna Benoit (‘21). “Then when we get there, other teachers are asking us ‘what do you have to do?,’ and I don’t have anything to do,” Benoit added.
For students in situations similar to Benoit’s, having activities as options during Flex as an alternative will allow for students to not be forced to schedule out and take up space in a different classroom, while doing nothing.
Some of the activities that teachers have proposed and implemented so far include: climbing the school’s rock wall in the gym, solving Rubik’s cubes, going for walks, coding on the computer, college application support, debate club, and more. The activities cannot be completely random. They must provide some sort of academic benefits for students who choose to participate.
The Flex Committee created a form for staff members to fill out in order to propose enrichment opportunities that they would be willing to run. The form ensures that the opportunity proposed is helpful to students in one way or another. “[The opportunities have to be] instructional in nature. Even though climbing the wall isn’t academic, there’s a reason for doing it whether it’s teamwork or trust or something like that,” said Milliken.
As of right now, it is difficult for some teachers over others to run an activity based on the subject that they teach, and how often students come in for help from them. The teachers running the activities can choose when and how often it meets; however, subjects such as Math and World Language usually have a full classroom for Flex, leaving those teachers with no availability to run an activity.
Johnson believes that as the year goes on, a better system can take place that allows for all teachers to be able to host an activity, if they would like. This is something that the Flex Committee will be discussing in the future.
“I really think that we need to come together as a faculty and have a larger discussion as a group because I feel like I would almost never be able to run an enrichment opportunity because I always have so many kids in my room,” said Johnson. She wonders if advisories with less students could take in more students, allowing other teachers to run activities. Another option is having the teachers who have less students, in advisory, run more enrichment activities.
If students are ever finding themselves bored during Flex, they should check out one of the activities. Advisors receive updated weekly emails containing a schedule of what activities are taking place, as the choices vary from week to week. Any other questions or ideas can be directed towards Milliken.
Artwork by Emma Hall