Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Downsizing

When the school year started, my CT told me that we were guaranteed no more than 24 kids. Because we teach freshmen, they wanted to provide small learning environments where the kids could get used to being in high school and really get some personal attention (not that this shouldn't be happening in ALL classes, but unfortunately that's just not an option). So we moved out all the extra tables and only prepared for 24 at the most.

Then came the first day. 24 kids showed up. Then more, then more, and then some more. We had to call down for extra chairs in the middle of class. Each day for the next few weeks we had new kids walking in with a schedule that had my CT's name at the top. We added two more tables. By the end of the first month, we had 32 in one class and 33 in another. The problem was that the district had predicted a certain enrollment, but way more actually enrolled. So until the 10-day count took place to show just how crazy things were, we were working with a budget that covered teachers for about 800 teachers when really the enrollment was more like 950. You do the math (and then thank your math teachers).

Of course ours wasn't the only class that was overcrowded, so the administration went on a search to hire a new math teacher and a new English teacher. Finally, 8 weeks into the school year, they started today. Last week we spent agonizing which kids we were going to switch out of our classes, and then agonizing some more about how to tell them. The poor kids--can you imagine having to start over with a brand new teacher so far into the school year? And emotionally it was difficult to give up all these kids who I really like, and know that they're going to resent us for it. It's not like you can tell a kid that you've moved them out of your class and expect them to not have hurt feelings.

But all the pain paid off almost instantly. Today we were back to six tables and only about 20 of them showed up. Our first period class was silent during the warm-up for the first time ever. The whole-class discussions actually involved the whole class, and we spent more time actually talking about math than telling kids to pay attention. I can't wait for the rest of the year.

And there are really questions about what to fix in public education? Of course reducing class size won't fix it all, but if my class can transform literally overnight, can you imagine what kinds of changes we'd see if every class in every school was under 25?

3 comments:

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

It just makes an enormous difference. There's no doubt about that.

Linda said...

I don't mean to break anyone's bubble, but they will not stay quite as quiet as they do at first. The pecking order will readjust and you will be back not to the chaos of earlier but a higher level of
chaos then this shell shocked first week. It is not only better for you but better for them that the numbers are down. As a kindergarten teacher here said, it is like those overcrowding of rats experiments where they have to fight for space before they can concentrate on anything else.

Enjoy them even more now and say Hi to the ex-class members when you see them in the halls.

Think of those new teachers struggling to make sense of it all and catch up as much as they can. Thank goodness your department works together so much. That will do much to make the transition work for everyone.

Roni said...

I'll bet your students won't take it too personally. They'll probably be breathing more easily in a small class, just like you. As long as you keep up the positive chat outside of class, like your mom points out, all will be well.

If anything your reputation among the student body will improve. Your ex-students will probably get nothing but your good side because they're busy peeving off another teacher. You'll be nothing but smiles in the hall and the students will be able to tell their friends "Oh, that's Ms. L. She's pretty cool. I used to be in her class." As long as they know you still know who they are I'm sure they'll be just fine.

Enjoy the elbow room! You, and your kids, deserve it.