Saturday, August 20, 2011

Back in the trenches

After a short staff meeting and spending the rest of the day setting up my classroom back on Monday, I just finished up my first week back teaching 8th grade U.S. History. I feel like a combat veteran with survivor's guilt. Last year, two of my fellow social studies teachers - who had been hired by our district just one year after me - were let go in the great budget crunch. One of the teachers taught all 8th grade, the other taught all 7th grade. They have been replaced by one teacher who is teaching half 8th and half 7th. With one fewer teacher teaching our subject, I have seen a significant increase in the number of students in my individual classes. My first clue that this was going to happen was when I first walked into my classroom and saw that the 32 desks that were in my classroom when I walked out two months ago had increased to 37. Uh oh.

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


Darren said...

Those furriners also are part of a culture that values order, conformity, and education--does that sound at all like what you encounter in *our* culture? Me, either.

Anonymous said...

Visit the Ministry of Singapore Education website and you will find that . . .

Primary 1 and 2 levels will see class size reduction.

SPED students attend their own schools - 20 of them available in the country. There are additional private or independent options.

Students attend schools which match their interests and abilities.

They offer life skill classes for all students.

There are a greater number of choices for students when it comes to curriculum programs.

We've got a long way to go and can in no way be compared to this system; do we really have a system in America besides come one, come all?

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