Malden High School’s Unique FLEX Block

Malden High’s schedule is separated into two days, Blue days and Gold days. Blue days contain periods one through four while Gold days contain periods five, FLEX, six, and seven. 

FLEX is a period that is split into two blocks, Enrichment and Joy. Enrichment allows students to catch up on work or receive extra help for any challenging classes. 

Joy is when students get to participate in activities that they find fun. Things are hosted like pool, automotive, engineering, or chess, as well as different clubs that meet during this time. The idea of FLEX sprouted when the school was faced with a problem when making the transition from the seven-class waterfall schedule to block scheduling. During the 2020-2021 school year, the school was planning to make the switch from seven classes a day to what we have now but the problem was that they could not split seven classes evenly between two days, meaning Gold days would have three extremely long classes. 

To combat this, the idea of FLEX was made in order to have an eighth block. “There was a group who worked together the summer before last year to try to build what would be the flex program and to get it initiated. We worked through the summer trying to identify what Enrichment would look like, what Joy would look like, and how we could set up the whole system. Then we started it last year trying to get a feel and get a chance for students to find enjoyment in school,” said Jessica Bisson who plays a vital role in organizing FLEX.

“We were noticing that students just did not really want to be here, so the whole idea was to help them get a little extra support during the Enrichment, but then find something fun and engaging that they could do during Joy that they are choosing. A lot of times students do not get a choice all the time of all the classes they have to take, so this was an opportunity to introduce a little bit more student choice and voice and help them find some enjoyment throughout the day,” continued Bisson.

However, FLEX has had some problems arise recently. FLEX has been a mixed bag lately, many students have found Enrichment and Joy offerings they like and others seem not to like FLEX as much. “I think students are not making choices as often. I think the novelty of it has worn off, and so some students are like, ‘Oh, whatever, I can roam the hallways.’ And so instead of taking the opportunity to actually utilize what would be very beneficial for them and could be fun for them, they take the time to walk around the hallways instead of going where they are supposed to go,” said Bisson. 

“I think for the students who found something that really resonates with them, yes it has been great, but I think for some students it has just become another period of time where the attendance and some sessions will not be good. Students are obviously roaming the hallway still and everyone’s aware of this. . . so I think it is mixed, but I think it is still worth attempting and just tweaking to make it work even better,” said 9th-grade ELA teacher Brian Wong.

The opinions of FLEX among students vary. Some students like freshman Omar Idmbarek Tenorio think of FLEX in a positive light, “I feel like FLEX is good and it helps me with extra work when I have a lot of work to do in classes and when I get home I have other things to do. So FLEX really helps me out with working and getting my work done.” 

Some students, like freshman Nenscky Dorvilier, think FLEX is not helpful, “low key, I am not going to lie, I go to Joy, but Enrichment? What is that? They need to take that out.”

Freshman Farris Qranfal said, “I mean when I pick my FLEX, it is easy to find things I love to do and FLEX is overall enjoyable, but when I do not remember to pick a FLEX I usually get put in some homework catch-up Joy or something dumb and when that happens, I just [skip.]”

According to Bisson, the engagement of FLEX among teachers has also gone down, “we have noticed that this year, the joy blocks have not been as diverse and I think that has kind of dwindled down and made it so it is just not as easy for students to choose something new and fun and engaging because there’s more study blocks or quiet areas or just chill spaces. And although those are good, last year we seemed to have [more] arts and crafts.”

“I think with the absence of late entries or early release days for teachers… we have seen a lot more silent studies and quiet workspaces, because teachers find that time to maybe catch up on some grading, maybe prep for a class. And we used to have that time with late entry days. And now that we do not have those, I think that is why, in my opinion, we are seeing an uptick in these silent studies and quiet spaces instead of more content specific,” said one of the FLEX leaders, Michel-Le Meranda.

To combat the outbreak of skipping in halls, Bisson and Meranda have many things planned. “We have put out surveys and we are trying to put the information in a way that’s very clear cutoff, these are the things that we saw last year, this is what we are seeing this year, [and] where can we go from there to make sure that we are really making sure that the students are getting what they are hoping to get. And we are thinking by adding in more of what the students are asking for, we will see more engagement from the students,” said Bisson.

Another idea that Bisson has is a group of teachers in charge of changing FLEX for the better. “My hope leading into next year is that we only have a few more cycles left if we can get this information out. I would love to be able to have a core group of staff members who can kind of get together with pay would be awesome, over the summer to really revamp FLEX and figure out how it can be more beneficial for teachers and students.” 

“Yes, it is a little work on the teachers too, the whole point is not to add a whole bunch of extra stress for teachers. It is supposed to be enjoyable for them as well. So it is trying to find that moment to make sure that we are seeking the voice of students and seeking the voice of teachers and combining it in a way that everybody can find help and support and joy through the flex cycles. “Hopefully, that will get a little bit more engagement from everybody… I think that takes more than just two people; it takes a team. It takes a team getting together and really looking at what we have, looking at the resources, looking at all the information we have and the data and saying, okay, from these two years, what went well, what didn’t go well, how can we tweak it to make it more in the positive direction?” said Bisson.

There is a “big communicating piece, communicating among staff members, communicating among students. We do not know what you all like unless you tell us. We can kind of gauge it based on some of the flexes that we have seen. So, it seems like gym and pool seem to be popular options and unfortunately, we only have one gym, and one pool; if we had multiple, we could potentially run multiple sessions, but without input from students, it is very hard for teachers to know what kind of joy sessions that students want and are looking for,” said Meranda.

“A big thing that would help would be if people are not necessarily communicating with the flex leaders, we do not know every student, right? If students have a teacher that they resonate with or vibe with really, really well, they like to go into that room a lot, talk to that teacher, and let them know things that they like and maybe they can come up together with a joy session that might be beneficial, that might interest a lot of people, but having like that student-teacher connection can build some more of these enrichments and joys that students are going [to] choose,” said Bisson.

FLEX is still in its early ages with many possible changes to come. FLEX is for the students, and students have the ability to morph the look of FLEX to what they feel it should be like, “we would love to keep flex as part of the schedule for as long as we can and in order for that to happen and for it to be successful and continue. Students need to make these choices. Students need to be going where they are assigned. Students need to be taking advantage of these opportunities for academic enrichment and for some form of happiness and stress relief throughout the day,” explained Meranda.

FLEX operates through the voice of the students, “accountability for everyone is how this is going to work,” confessed Bisson.

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