How to Get Teacher Buy-in for Flex Time
If you are like most administrators, it is often easier to find areas where students need more support, but often it can be harder to find strategies that seem sufficient. Often it seems that no matter the curriculum or numerous differentiation strategies used during the regular class time, there is still a need for more time with students for more intentional instruction to support their individual needs. That’s one of the many benefits of flex time, and the reason more and more middle and high school leaders are deciding to start Flex Periods. However, as with any initiative, ensuring the staff has buy-in is critical to it being successful. For any of you going through that process, below are some things to consider when looking to get teacher buy-in for a Flex Period in your building.
For more detailed steps on how to start a Flex Period, click here to download our Flex Period Planning Tool
Identify Staff Motivations & Skepticism
Look at your staff on a spectrum from those willing and excited to those at the opposite end who are skeptical and apprehensive. Make a list that includes the things that motivate and excite them, as well as those that feed their skepticism. Are they motivated and excited by the possibility of more opportunities for small group instruction, developing stronger student relationships, or even just having more time with students? Are they skeptical due to lack of experience and know-how, worries about what materials to use, uncertainty around how to use the time, or fear that they’ll lose too many minutes taken out of the regular class time to make the Flex Period?
Don’t be afraid to put out feelers, too. We recommend asking at least a couple of your teachers for their perspective, especially those who carry influence over their peers, and your building leadership team for a pulse. Try to get specific with them about what is most important in motivating people to feel both positive and skeptical about the idea. Information is powerful and it can help with the next steps for a successful launch of your flex time.
Plan Your Strategies
With anything, making a plan is critical. After gathering data on your staff’s motivations and skepticism, brainstorm ways to leverage their motivations and overcome obstacles, and execute them in a variety of ways, like 1-on-1 discussions, staff meetings, written communication, emails, think tank sessions, and building leadership meetings.
Finding existing opportunities where information can be shared is usually most helpful, but don’t be afraid to try something new if it makes sense. Finding opportunities that align with similar topics is usually best so it doesn’t already feel like “one more thing.” Once you understand their motivations, finalize your key messages, then how and when you’ll share them with your staff and, ideally, solicit their input on at least some pieces of your ideas and plans.
Use the Data
Data doesn’t lie. It tells a story, but most importantly it is objective. Usually, stakeholders want the data to tell a story that reflects positively on their student outcomes. Though data is objective, it is also personal, especially when you have a climate and culture in your building that talks to the point that they are “our students” (vs. “your students.”) Teachers are often excited to have a hand in making that story better and contributing to their school’s successes.
Further, it helps communicate the “why” behind the change and the need for adding a Flex Period. This is pivotal to getting your staff on board. Data speaks to the rationale that is important to buy-in. It speaks to the need for change and the moving away from the status quo. It identifies the gaps and opportunities available for everyone to be change agents. It creates talking points for everyone to have an opportunity to give their voice.
Once the data has been collected, and the rationale for the change has been recognized through the data, teachers have the opportunity to provide their voice to the opportunities a Flex Period can best provide to meet the needs of the students and close the gaps. Teachers may recognize through the data a need exists for ELA and math priority days, and communicate the roles they see themselves having in this, it could be more time for small group offerings, or grouping students across the subject area they teach and provide interventions for that. Maybe social-emotional learning is important to the students’ success and that can be worked within the flex time.
There are numerous ways to use a Flex Period and teachers are more apt to buy into something they have had an opportunity to share their voice in creating. As you know, teachers are in the trenches every day and in tune with their students, so they want to be a part of the solution and have a hand in changes and new initiatives a school takes on.
Sometimes one of the hurdles in getting buy-in from teachers can boil down to lack of support. Supports can range from setting clear expectations for how this period should be used or offering suggestions for what it might look like in their classroom. It could be instructional materials or strategies for what they will be doing during flex time, or maybe it is a thinking partner that can help them navigate this additional time in the schedule. It can look like an instructional coach providing instructional materials or suggestions, a guidance counselor providing SEL lessons, PLC time for discussions around the flex time, or the opportunity to reach out to and have discussions with teachers in neighboring schools that have a flex time.
Regardless, providing a means for your staff to get the support they need is critical to both buy-in and the ongoing success of flex time. Administrative support is also critical during a time for implementing a Flex Period as it keeps the enthusiasm going. Ensuring that the Flex Period has a shared group vision that is around collaboration, shared goals, data, and expectations will go a long way in making your Flex Period a success for all stakeholders.
For additional benefits of Flex Periods check out our post:
If you are wondering about other ways to make a Flex Period successful, like how to take the logistical burdens off your staff, schedule a demo here to learn more about how we could help. We’d also happily put you in touch with one of the many schools we work with around the country if you’d like to connect directly to other schools that have already gone through this process.