I am now teaching the smallest class I have ever taught. I have fourteen students: ten girls and four boys.
We talk a lot about improving education. We discuss budgets and programs and technology. But from my perspective the solution to most of our education problems is right there on the attendance chart. Give me fewer children and I’ll give them a better education.
It is impossible to devote the same amount of time, energy, and patience to twenty-five children as I do to my fourteen. The most I’ve ever had in my classroom is 27 (with an aide) so I can’t begin to address the situation in classrooms with thirty children or more (and those do exist!). But I know that simply having that many bodies in a room ideally designed for 18-20 students is an invitation for more discipline problems. I know that I can’t do the same projects, experiments, and games with a larger herd of restless bodies. I can’t give individual attention on a daily basis if I can’t even physically get to each desk within our time frame.
There is also a certain amount of observing, testing, and general paperwork that must be done for each child. Having too many students adds to that obligation and increases the amount of “homework” I must do. If I have to do more paperwork for a larger group, then I have to cut some work and time somewhere and it is usually in project preparation. What we do in class will be simpler and perhaps less “enlightening” or “entertaining” just because I don’t have time to cut out twenty-five of whatever we need for a more complicated project.
I also believe that I am just calmer and nicer with a smaller group! I’m more focused and in tune with the needs of my students. I can listen to stories and care about hobbies and pets and toys.
So, if you are looking for solutions to your local education problems, I suggest you start with class size. It really is the foundation of a good education.