Friday, April 18, 2014

No Room to Move

I had two classes this week that have 31 students.  Both were 5th grades.  The other class (of the three I taught this week) was around 20.  The room size was perfectly adequate for the 20 student classroom - it is a charter school.  The room size was also adequate for the 31 students in an upper socio-economic school.  The room in the lower socio-economic school was cramped to absolute capacity.  I don't know where they would fit another desk, should a new 5th grader move into the district. 

Managing a class of 31 students, several of which have special needs, is a challenge, no matter what the room size.  As a sub, it is nearly impossible for me to get to know any of the students.  It makes substitute teaching more like being a clerk (or a prison warden).  The job is to make sure the kids are accounted for; that they pretend to do some work; and that they make it to the end of the day without any major disasters.  There is little time for connecting to students. 

But worst of all, for the students who have to be there every day, the crowded classroom is very uncomfortable for several of the students.  One student was physically very large - just moving around the classroom must remind him several times a day that he is much bigger than most of the others.  Another child seemed uncomfortable sitting - but standing means he blocks someone else's path.  One student was on a behavior plan - and has temper issues.  How do you make sure the other students can be away from him, if he has a melt-down? 

Then there was the terribly quiet girl.  I couldn't tell if she was shy or just completely overwhelmed with all the people.  What pain she must be in every week day, with no place where she can get away from all the kids and not be constantly on guard.  And what about a few of the others, who also seemed introverted.  There was no place to escape from the overwhelming crush of other students. 

And, I suppose it is equally painful for students who need to move.  With 31 students in a packed classroom, any movement is disruptive. 

The students were actually pretty nice, and I was only there for a half day, so it didn't overwhelm me.  But it is painful for me to think about the situation we are putting those children in.  Imagine adults in that situation.  They would find it intolerable.  Why do we do this to kids? 

Because we can.

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