I wrote this in spring of 2008. My largest class this year has almost five times the number of students that this special little class had, and next year, the smallest class that the district will allow will be 32 students per class.
I read this and weep….
In my 5th hour class, there are only nine students. It was a cosmic accident that primarily resulted from having “two lunches” for the first time in probably 20 years. We had to work out the glitches, and one of those glitches turned out to be the gem of nine students making up an entire class.
That class of nine has made me see some things in education that I have never seen before. It’s not often that a teacher is blessed with such an ultra-small class.
One of the things I have realized is how intimate such a small class can be. I know each student’s values and priorities but also his/her parents’ jobs, his after-school schedules and even his views on all three of the presidential candidates.
I know, for example, each student’s sports and musical activities. I know that Kim had pinkeye last week, because Angel called her mother (who’s a doctor) during class to find out the symptoms–and she called with my blessings.
I know that Megan figure-skates twice a day and that her “doubles” partner is staying with Megan’s family so that he can train with Megan, even though he really lives in Boston. I also know that Megan’s mom has banned the boy from Megan’s end of the house–probably to make any kind of hanky-panky a tough thing to accomplish.
I know that Kat is really close to her mom and will tell her everything and that she refuses to do anything “bad” because she doesn’t want to be in the position to NOT be able to talk to her mom.
I know that Allie was home-schooled until her sophomore year and that she has values firmly in place and that those values are somewhat untraditional. For example, she was one of two seniors who showed up for my classes during senior ditch-day.
I know every one of those students’ writing style and reading style and what they need in order to be successful in my class. And probably in other classes.
And most importantly, they can move fast through the curriculum. My 5th hour class takes three days to get through what it takes three weeks for the other classes to cover. My 5th hour can get through what should be a year’s curriculum in about four months.
Honestly, one way to solve the current educational woes is to offer students at least one really small class.
If parents want their kids to be noticed and if students want to be noticed, then teachers need to be given the opportunity to actually NOTICE.
And for the record, I am not suggesting that every class should be staffed at 10 to one, but rather that every student should have at least one class that is staffed that way.
Yeah, I know…. We don’t have enough $$ for such things. We can’t afford to give our kids what they really need–which is probably as basic as having an adult on campus that notices when a child is absent.
However, if we got rid of even a fraction of the educational BS that currently plagues our educational system, we probably COULD afford such things. Maybe if we got rid of AIMS ** and got rid of the 62 hours of classes that teachers have to take in order to learn how to teach immigrant kids that they may or may not ever really be faced with…maybe if the public as a whole valued education as much as they say they do, we could actually pull something like this off.
But, yeah, I know…I am too idealistic sometimes, too concerned with solutions, too caught up in how things COULD be.
**Or how about getting rid of the mountain of standardized testing that comes with Common Core State Standards and Race to the Top money??