Home Author Sue Culverhouse Just How Many Students Would You Like in Your Classroom?

Sue Culverhouse

Just How Many Students Would You Like in Your Classroom?

Our current Governor Bill Haslam has suggested that an improvement in schools would be to increase the number of students in the classrooms of the “best” teachers and pay those people more money; in addition, he’d like to decrease the number of teachers to save money.

Hello!

Let’s look at this scenario in daylight and see how it might play out.

By the way, Sam Stockard reports in the Nashville Tennessean on Sunday, February 5th, that this is getting a cool reception in the Legislature. Could it be that constituents (parents, educators, people concerned that education would be damaged irreparably) are letting their Legislators know that this is unacceptable?

(Just as an aside, Governor Haslam also wants to eliminate the teacher salary scale to provide more money for higher education. In Robertson County, the annual raise averages $300; as little as this is, it is absolutely essential to poor teachers who are struggling to keep up with the cost of living. The thought of losing this small amount is heaping coals on the fire of many teachers who are in the process of deciding whether or not they will teach again next year.)

Here are the suggested sizes for classes: kindergarten through third grade: 25; grades four to eight: 30; grade nine: 25; grades ten to twelve: 22.

Think about this. You have smaller classes in high school than in kindergarten! I suggest that we send a group of four- and five-year-olds to the Governor’s office and to visit each Legislator for a week. (Teachers have these little ones for 200 days!) Once these politicians have found out what it’s really like to teach these little ones, they just might change their minds about how many need to be placed in a room together.

Small children who enter school for the first time are not used to a routine. Many are scared and just want their parents or guardians. Some cry for hours on end. Most need to go to the bathroom numerous times a day—and sometimes don’t make it on time. That is just the beginning. Some can’t get along with others and kick, bite, pinch, punch or scream at others. Crowd control is a daily activity. Complaints of “he won’t be my friend” or “I want that marker now!” are not uncommon. Some kids have never held a pair of scissors before. Some are reading at a second grade level. A pinprick with a drop of blood oozing out can cause a major meltdown.

Teaching kindergarten—or any primary grade—is not for the faint of heart!

Contrast that with teaching 22 high school students in a classroom. High school classes last 90 minutes. Here are young adults whose main purpose for being in school (for many of them) is socializing. High school teachers can assign long papers that require individual effort; no high school student would be caught dead having a bathroom accident requiring a new set of clothes or go up to the teacher to ask to go to the nurse for one drop of blood from a paper cut.

Get the picture. Whoever decided that small children should be herded together in large groups was definitely not inclined to be nominated for the Nobel. A group of fifteen kindergarten children or first graders is a handful; 25 is a nightmare. I’ve seen this scenario one year when we were waiting for a portable classroom for the fifth teacher in our kindergarten. Just moving 25 kindergarteners from one place to another is a major event. Learning to walk in a line is a major accomplishment for many of them. You’re just lucky if you don’t have a “runner” in the group. (Yes, indeed, some small children feel that bailing out of school is their primary goal because it really wasn’t their idea to go to school in the first place!)

Don’t hesitate if you are a thinking adult to let your Legislator know how you feel on this subject.

Our fifth graders, eighth graders and eleventh graders have to take the TCAP (or equivalent) tests each year—and they don’t need to be in crowded situations with tremendously stressed teachers trying to cover the extensive amount of material over which they are tested.

Overcrowding students results in the same type of scenario that overcrowding rats does—fights and misbehavior. Children want attention full time. They will get it one way or another. When the teacher has too many students in the classroom, lower instincts take over. Small groups of children may form gangs of one type or another. Girls will bully other girls by excluding them from the group. Boys will act out and get into confrontations.

Teaching is difficult at best. Reducing salaries for some and increasing salaries for others who are doing the same job leads to anger, frustration, and bad feelings that are not conducive to a happy school. Tests that are supposed to prove one teacher is better than another are not foolproof. Any teacher can have a group of students who are underachievers one year and have a group of high achievers the next. Teachers take what they get. Even on a good day, some children are not going to perform at top capacity on a test.

Children do not respond well to lack of attention. Overcrowding a classroom is a poor remedy to use for saving money.

Let’s let the educators teach and improve the school systems. We have too many arm chair jockeys trying to “improve” the system. Some ideas just make things worse—and adding more kids to a classroom is near the top of the list!

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