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Program helps middle school students, teachers relate

A new school year and a new principal have led to many changes at Rifle Middle School this year.

One of the coolest, from the student perspective, is the advent of Flex Time.

The concept of Flex Time originated this summer when new principal Susan Birdsey and her staff were planning for the 2005-2006 school year.



“When we were looking at our schoolwide plan, we decided it was vital to have time where we could teach conflict resolution skills and character education,” said RMS counselor Vicki Brusig.

From that conversation, students now have a half-hour block twice a week known as Flex Time. For the first few weeks of school, each grade level participated in preplanned activities that focused on team building. As the school year progresses, Rifle Middle School teachers will follow a curriculum that Brusig and fellow Rifle Middle School counselor Dana Maki wrote over the summer. That curriculum delves deeper into conflict resolution skills and character education.



The focused time allows RMS staff to develop deeper relationships with their students, while focusing on essential life skills. The Flex Time block will also be used for assembly time occasionally.

Every teacher and paraprofessional has the opportunity to be involved with the students. Classroom teachers have Flex Time with their last class of the day. Specials teachers (i.e. art, physical education, music) and paraprofessionals assist classrooms with their Flex Time activities.

The lessons aren’t designed for teachers to “stand and deliver” to the class. Rather, they are taught in “family-style” circles where there is a lot of interaction, said Brusig.

“We ask the teachers not to just do these activities but to ask about why it is so important to become a team,” she added.

Flex Time has been a big hit with students and staff so far.

First-year RMS art teacher Jamie Hudson explained that the team building exercises have already made an impact.

“Team building brings the school together so that everyone feels that they are in a safe learning environment. We are strengthening from within and community building,” she said.

Hudson has strong ties to the Rifle area, and her contribution to team-building exercises earlier this month included a very large piece of the Christo Curtain that hung at Rifle Gap.

“It was so cool to see the kids playing with a piece of the local heritage,” said Hudson. “The kids have really responded to (Flex Time). They are so excited when they know it is a flex day. It’s cool to see the lights in their eyes.”

Through the purposeful and deliberate conversations about the importance of being a team and how to resolve conflicts that Flex Time allows for, Brusig hopes to watch her students bloom into knowledgeable, caring and responsible young adults.

“Our goal is to help our students solve their conflicts peacefully on their own,” she said. “We’ve received great feedback from the teachers. They have really bought into it and are making it a success.”

Theresa Hamilton is director of districtwide services for Garfield School District Re-2. She can be reached at 625-7621.


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