Small class size and its opponents

Lavonne wrote in a post to flteach:

>I have had the luxury of ten-twelve [in a class] many years ago. *Everything* is easier with a smaller group, including covering more and helping more with those who are struggling.>

But notice what we do in public schools: small classes to better teachers, huge classes to newbies; small classes at the top and at the bottom of the academic spectrum with the average kid being in a huge class, thus converting the large middle to a large bottom group; think tanks producing bogus researach “demonstrating” that class size isn’t important [then why do the think tank members’ kids go to private schools with small classes – huh?]; do nothing about the teaching/learning continuum and only test, with kudos going to teachers with high test scores and nasty newspaper headlines to those whose kids score lower.

The result of this is that parents do anything they can to get their kids in small classes, urging psychologists to find their kid either “gifted” or “special ed”; either way the kid gets the attention anyone needs in order to learn.

Then teachers get to harangue parents and resent the special ed department for giving kids breaks and excuses regular kids don’t get. The kids in spec ed are encouraged to act like they are spec ed, otherwise they don’t fit in.

And that brings me to Maslow’s hierarchy. No matter what you may think about psychology, this simple way of looking at human behavior explains a lot. A young person generally wants to fit in with some group, his so-called peer group. A few run against the grain, true, but most of us want to find a modicum of acceptance.

Meanwhile, teachers often want us to behave in ways contrary to the expectations of our peer group and the social group we come from. So if I’m a working-class White kid, my peer group and my family have certain expectations of me. Many of these do not conform to what teachers expect of me, including academic behavior, personal behavior, language, taste in music and literature, and so on.

A good teacher recognizes this and works to bring new perspectives into the students’ lives without too severely transgressing peer-group and societal expectations. Try it once: just think of the values of a particular group in your school and then of the values of your teachers there and see if there is not a mismatch.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *