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Before leaving for holiday break this year, several of my colleagues and I commented on how tired and wrung out we felt. It wasn ‘t the usual “tired due to holiday stress” fatigue, this was tired as in “is it June yet?” tired. We were weary beyond what we all normally felt at mid year. It has been an exhausting four months mainly due to one major change at our high school- class size.
This year each teacher was assigned three additional students per class totaling fifteen to eighteen extra kids per day. While that may not sound like an unreasonable addition, fifteen extra students is like teaching an extra half class per day. In an art class, three more students per class puts a tremendous burden on a teacher who must provide individual assistance to each learner. There are days that I am too busy to take attendance, answer the phone or attend to other clerical duties. On some days there are students who need my help who never get it. Every day, my skills and patience are stretched thinner than they should ever be in a classroom. Everyday I ask myself how such a situation could possibly be benefiting kids.
At what point does real teaching end and custodial care begin? What benefit are we providing to kids by packing them into too small classrooms with less than adequate supplies and too little time? The joke to me is that the outcry in education is for teachers to close the “achievement gap”- and yet, states, districts and administrators continue to thwart our efforts to do so by creating and mandating he worst possible learning environments for kids. Everything in educational research points to the fact that smaller equals successful- in classroom and whole school size. There can be no individualization in super-sized educational environments. Kids get “lost”, fall through the cracks, and fail. If the champions of closing the achievement gap are truly proponents of student success then they need to advocate for caps on class size and school size.