There is nothing like an over-anticipated winter storm to remind me that class size really does matter. Yesterday, Mayor De Blasio announced that schools would indeed be open despite the impending nor’easter. As an elementary school teacher, I knew what that would mean for my day— tiny classes.
Today, as expected, I had only 14 students in one class, 10 in another, 17 in another. It was incredible. I spoke with every single student during just one lesson. Conflicts were resolved. Materials didn’t need to be shared unless students chose to work together. I was able to individually help every student in each class complete their work and understand the activity. I could actually assess student work then and there and provide feedback or suggestions. I could laugh and smile with the kids because I wasn’t running around like a maniac trying to check on every child or putting out fires (fourth grade is drama-full). I had time to have a conversation with students about their home lives and interests. I could be more flexible and introduce new materials when students finished early. The classroom was calm & happy. And most important, everybody learned.
Districts and local governments spend millions on testing, consultants, (& new chancellors) technology and curriculum to “boost achievement.” But ask any actual teacher and he or she will tell you that no product or curriculum can replace the human attention that all children need. There is a reason private school class sizes rarely exceed 20 students.
Class size matters. Visit any school on a blustery non-snow day, and I’m sure you’ll see what I mean.