A PLC Alternative to Advisory
There are many middle schools across our nation that have an advisory or homeroom period built into their weekly or daily schedule to meet the needs of the whole child. In theory, this concept sounds good and makes sense to plenty of educators. But let’s talk about the reality, and I will share some my personal experiences. I contend that many advisory/homeroom periods at middle schools are completely ineffective in meeting the intended purpose and that this time could be served for a better purpose that will impact student learning.
When I taught middle school, our advisory period was 25 minutes of survival for most teachers. Our well-intended social workers created lessons for us, but as a teaching staff, we had little ownership of these lessons, and the content usually lasted about 10 of the 25-minute period. Then we were stuck punting the remaining 15 minutes. This quickly created animosity directed toward this advisory period by most of the staff. I have four children, and two of them have been in middle school the last few years. They both had advisory periods once a week. I remember asking one of my boys about his most recent advisory period. He stated to me that they spent the entire time talking with their teacher about their favorite ice cream flavors.
With these two personal examples, I see 25 to 30 minutes of the school day that is being utilized in an ineffective manner. While I recognize that not all advisory or homeroom periods are ineffective, I have heard from hundreds of teachers in the last several years about plenty of ineffective models. I also hear from some of these same educators that they have no time during the school day to properly intervene and support their struggling learners. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Maybe we can use advisory/homeroom periods differently. Maybe we can be strategic about that time to impact learning. Looking for an idea on what to do with an advisory/homeroom period that has gone stale and doesn’t impact learning? At Jane Addams Junior High in Schaumburg District 54 (IL), the staff has come up with a twice per week 28-minute FLEX period as a way to use time during the school day to intervene with students.
Simply stated, FLEX happens twice a week at Addams. We have created this time by taking about three minutes off each of our nine periods during the school day. We have a fairly simple structure of what curricular area gets priority, and all teachers (core and electives) have access to this time. Electronic share folders are used to keep the staff aware of where students go, and the staff works together to make FLEX time as effective as possible. FLEX time is used for intervention, additional project time, reteaching, acceleration, and enrichment. Each department has the autonomy to determine how they will utilize FLEX each week.
While FLEX is not perfect, we do know that it is effective in meeting the learning needs of our students, and it has had a very positive impact on our overall student achievement. This concept was created by our staff, and they have great ownership over it. I would suggest that if you have an ineffective advisory/homeroom period and you are looking for extra time to support student learning, you may actually have the time—your staff just needs to reflect on a better way to use it!