It's been almost a year since my last blog post. For a variety of reasons, both personal and professional, I was stuck and unable to share what was going on in my classroom and experiences. This year, however, is off to such a great start that I couldn't help but blog about it! Thank you to those past readers who stuck around! Hopefully this year will bring a lot of inspirational posts for you.
There are so many ideas running through my mind about what should be my first-in-awhile post. I think the biggest one that affects all of the rest is my class itself. Let's start with size. As a teacher in California, I have had an average class size of 30. Some years were as high as 38 (though thankfully only for a few weeks), while a couple of others had as low as 18 (My first class, had no idea how good I had it back then!) Because of a special grant, this year I am lucky to have a class of 22. Even though we have been in school a whole THREE days(!), I can already tell the difference it makes. Here are just a few reasons why.
1) Room arrangement - I see posts constantly of rooms a lot smaller than mine crammed with furniture, but with classes over 30, mine never seemed to have enough room. While having flexible seating helps, having less students means I have less furniture. We are able to spread out without having to worry about bumping into the next person just to walk across the room. I was able to keep the best of what I had to offer the students rather than making sure I had enough places for each student to sit or stand.
2) Activities- While I always try new things, it was a concern of too many students to be able to do it. For example, I have heard of classes doing morning meetings or community circles over the last few years. Having the ability to allow for all students to be able to share took on a whole new meaning with large class sizes when searching for an appropriate time period to squeeze it in. Not this year! We were able to do our first community circle the other day (saving that for it's own post!). In 20 minutes we were able to allow everyone the chance to answer three separate questions. There is very little chance I could have done it in the past with so many students. For other activities, I realize that mixing students in groups by personality will be harder due to smaller numbers, but that is such a small thing compared to what I WILL be able to do.
3) Student contact - I saved this one for last because I think it is the most important reason. I have tried to make contact with every student everyday as much as possible. Last year I implemented a morning greeting (high five, hand shake or fist bump) with each student as they come in. It was a start, but some days it was the most contact I would get with EVERY student. Now I have the ability to not only check on each one, but have full interactions with ALL of them every day. Students are no longer able to blend into the background. The other morning a student was having a hard time understanding what he was supposed to do. He was used to a very traditional way of thinking, and I was stretching his abilities. While he was academically able to do it, he wasn't comfortable with the change and it really affected his social-emotional ability to do it. With a larger class I would have noticed him, but wouldn't necessarily have been able to address exactly what was happening with him. Not only was I able to get to him, but I was able to spend enough time with him to show that he was not only capable of doing it, but that it could turn into something he was really good at. This made such a difference in his belief in himself and my thoughts on class size.
There have been a few articles that give research that shows class size doesn't make a difference. I have always been of the mind that it's the teacher that makes the biggest factor based on class management ability. While I do think it is still a big influence, so far my class this year is proving me wrong about the number. What I have been able to do with them in just the first three days has shown me that size really does matter!
20+ year teacher, mother of 2 kids and 2 dogs, wife, lover of all things M&M, interested in tech in the classroom, and changing up my teaching