Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Dear people who have never taught before: stop saying class size doesn't matter

Valerie Strauss recently posted on her Washington Post blog The Answer Sheet about a study that was published that finally shows class size does matter -- small class size that is.

I get so frustrated with people who have never taught in a classroom saying that class size doesn't matter and that any teacher worth his salt could teach kids no matter how large the group. Here's the thing: even if that were true, just because a teacher CAN teach a whole boatload of kids doesn't mean she SHOULD. There's this little issue we have in this country with teacher turnover, and when I say little issue, I really mean big issue.

More students in the classroom means more work for the teacher, means more burn out, means more teachers quit. Let's not forget that nearly 50% of teachers leave the profession within the first five years. We're so obsessed with numbers and data in this country so we forget that teachers and students are HUMAN. This issue isn't just about numbers and what physical, mental, and emotional feats you can subject a great teacher to just because the data shows great teachers can handle 30+ students at a time. This is about ethics. This is about quality of life. Even teaching a total of 60 students -- about 20-22 students per class -- I burned out. That's a lot of papers to grade, lessons to plan, personalities to learn, and interests to cater to. I can't even imagine what a high school teacher with 5 or 6 classes of 30-40 high needs students must endure.

So it's nice to finally see that studies are showing what teachers knew all along: small class size matters.

Let's take a note from this tweet sent out by high school teacher Jeannette Haskins:

It's amazing what deep meaning can be conveyed in just a simple 140 character tweet. Jeannette's words are so true. If we don't produce environments for our teachers to thrive, our students won't either.

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