Last year, I had a class that started out at 22, fell to 17 at one point, then rebounded to 23 by the end of the year. This year, my smallest class is 33 students. I teach 5 periods, so the total number of students I have right now is 178. Some of my fellow teachers have classes in excess of 42 students.
This is when some of members of the chattering classes - many of whom are, unfortunately, conservative - smugly tell us that in Japan, or Korea, or Singapore, teachers have no problems with classes of 40 or even 50 students, so what is my friggin' problem? Of course, these teachers across the vast Pacific don't have problems with their large classes! Their students are actually expected to behave, and the teachers and administrators of schools over there actually have the ability to make the students behave, or else. Due to a state education code that ties both our hands behind our backs and then lashes them to our ankles, we teachers and administrators here in California do not have the same classroom and campus management tools at our disposal.
Judging by the campus-wide behavior of our students so far this year - five students have already been suspended for fighting, including three of my students - I have a feeling I will have plenty of opportunities this year to lay out a sobering picture for you of just how dysfunctional our state's education system continues to be.
"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free... it expects what never was, and never will be." -Thomas Jefferson