Printed on: January 08, 2013

Flexing for grades

Students offered more one-on-one time with teachers

By Christina Lords

Eighth-grader Alex Burrows was giggling with friends playing a round of "Taboo" in the Rocky Mountain Middle School faculty lounge Friday afternoon.

She wasn't in a class. And this wasn't a lunch break.

Instead, Alex was enjoying her daily dose of flex-time. It's a part of the school's new program that allows students more one-on-one time with teachers.

Students who maintain at least a C grade in all their classes, are allowed to participate in flex-time activities such as volleyball or basketball in the gym, a movie in the auditorium, board games in the teachers' lounge or computer games in the library.

"At first I was like, what's flex-time?" Alex said. "And what exactly am I supposed to do? ... I like playing Taboo or on our Wii, but I've used that time to make up daily worksheets for language (class) and for my daily worksheets in choir, too."

Flex-time takes place from 11:30 a.m. to noon every school day except Wednesday, when the school has early release.

Ezri Klepich, 13, said she likes to use her flex-time in the computer lab and watching movies with friends, but she also uses it for something else.

"Sometimes, I use it for extra band practice," she said. "I play the trombone and I like to go in there and (play). I've played since the beginning of seventh grade."

Principal Jason Lords said the program started in November, after a group of teachers traveled to a middle school in Utah to see how it works.

The number of students with D and F grades should reduce dramatically by the end of the semester, Lords said.

"Now they're getting help and becoming successful because they're building that relationship with their teacher," he said. "That's a win."

One of the program's benefits is that students receive daily report cards on colored paper to use as tickets into the activities, seventh-grade life sciences teacher Alane McLing said.

The students are able to see their progress in each subject every day.

Students with D's, F's or incomplete grades are given report cards on white paper. They must report to the teacher's classroom to make up schoolwork until their grades qualify them for flex-time activities.

"It's built into the school day, so there's accountability and there's responsibility," she said.

The activities motivate students to turn in assignments on time, while the in-class flex-time allows more time for students to learn a concept, McLing said.

"For me as a teacher, this has been so freeing," McLing said. "I don't have to chase kids down during their lunch hour or make long lists of what they need to turn in."

Flex-time allows students to take charge of their own schedule and educational decisions, math teacher Justin Dahlke said.

"Everyone, even the best students, are going to need it at some point," Dahlke said. "If we have kids that get it right the first time and never struggle, this also shows us we're not doing enough to (challenge them.)"

Features writer Christina Lords can be reached at 542-6762.