Is your school thinking of adding a flex period to its schedule, but struggling to get buy-in? And how do you find time in the school day for a flexible period when your schedule is already packed?

When schools are looking to make changes to their schedule, these are often two major roadblocks. It can be difficult to find the time during the school day, and it can be difficult to convince everyone that this is a good idea. Change is difficult, and specifically not having buy-in from other school staff members can stop a new idea dead in its tracks. So, how do you create buy-in?

That’s one of the things we talked about with principal Mary Gans and assistant principal Tom McManamon. They explained how they created buy-in, and actually turned some of their biggest critics into some of their best advocates. Listen to how they did it in our newest podcast episode! Subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Pandora and more so you don’t miss an episode.

Read some highlights of the episode below.

MARY: And we always had said right from the get-go, this is a pilot, we’re not doing it just to do this, and if we don’t like it then we’ll trash it and we’ll do something else. Because we do need to satisfy the NEASC requirements but we’re not just going to do something if it’s obviously not good for teachers and students.

TOM: I think it was probably the most critical piece to the success of Clipper TIme to be honest. The best decision Mary made was what she said at the beginning, I’m not here to force this down anyone’s throat.

ENRICHING STUDENTS: That kind of statement let staff know two things. One, that these decisions weren’t going to be made without their input, and two, that the ultimate goal was to create a program that was good for them, and for students. From the very beginning, Mary and Tom knew that this was something they wanted to take step by step. Tom explains how it all got started when they attended a conference put on by NEASC.

TOM: We saw a school from New Hampshire there that presented on a flex schedule. We came back really excited about that idea, but were careful to introduce it slowly, we talked to our scheduling committee about it first. They wanted to investigate it more. We then had the principal of that school in New Hampshire we had seen to come down and present to our faculty. The faculty uniformly was pretty excited about continuing to investigate. We then had a group visit the school in New Hampshire, and we were careful to send both people who were really about the idea of investigating this and some skeptics who said I don’t want to lose any time from my classes I can’t afford to. And they all came back really excited, I’ll say the skeptics were more excited than the people who were originally excited about it. They then presented to our faculty on it in small groups to talk about their experience in seeing something like this firsthand.

ENRICHING STUDENTS: Let’s pause there, because this is really important. Mary and Tom were careful not just to just include their supporters in this process. That would have been the easy route. But they knew that if they could get staff who were skeptical about the program to support it, even advocate for it, that would carry more weight. And they had these skeptics join them in the investigation process, visiting a school who was currently utilizing a flex schedule, so that they could see firsthand what it was like. That makes a huge difference. Once this group presented to the rest of the faculty they took an anonymous vote on whether or not to continue with this pilot. Faculty agreed this was something they wanted to try. But still, they didn’t rush into implementation.

TOM: That I think, it was over a year of planning before we officially implemented Clipper Time at Falmouth High School. And I would recommend nothing less for a school, it’s not something you can jump right into because when you try and make change like that without the careful investigation and buy-in, there’s going to be pushback. And I think for a legitimate reason.

ENRICHING STUDENTS: That’s a good point. Teachers won’t want to do something if they don’t see the value of it, because their time is precious, and they care about their students. New programs might meet with pushback because there wasn’t sufficient time given to educate and include people in the investigation process. That is what will build buy-in. Once they had that buy-in, what did it take to rearrange the schedule?

MARY: The scheduling committee that we created had several faculty members on it, it was all voluntary we didn’t pay them but they were great, they really looked at our schedule. We had a lot of factors to take into account, should we do it in the morning should we do it in the afternoon, we have students who go out on internships in the afternoon they would miss it if it was the afternoon, we had lunch waves to take into account. And the only way we could really do it was to shave minutes off of periods, and that was a huge concern. We took six minutes off of each of our periods during the day to create a thirty-three minute clipper time period and we were very very worried about that.

ENRICHING STUDENTS: For a lot of schools, one of the biggest challenges to creating a flex block is finding time during the school day to do it. And shaving 5 or 6 minutes off of a class may not seem like a lot, but that’s 5 or 6 minutes of instructional time that’s very important to teachers, and can raise some concerns. But at Falmouth High School, they figured out that they weren’t actually losing any time. Tom explains.

TOM: I think what teachers are starting to realize too is that the six minutes we lost when they were reteaching standards or skills to an entire class that maybe 80% of them were proficient in the subject matter skill we’re talking about, and the teacher’s really focusing in on this 20%. They now are taking those 6 minutes, which cumulatively add up to thirty-three every day, and they can focus with those smaller groups who didn’t get the skill when everyone else did, and really remediate and work with those students more who need it more.