This is a concept I first encountered (or I guess first became aware of) 4 years ago when the principal of my old school announced that we were now going to receive SES (supplemental educational services) for all of our students that qualify for free lunch. SES landed at our school in the form of Kaplan, Scores, and Princeton Review and offered free after school programs for all of our Title I kids. Sounds great right? Well the problem was that these companies didn't actually care about helping our kids to succeed. They came in with their own curriculum (which had nothing to do with ours), their own tests, and a whole lot of junk food (i.e. sugar soda and pizza) to basically bribe children and their parents into placing them into these programs. They made their money per head and they would do anything to convince poor families that this garbage they were hocking was the right thing for their children.
Now this ugly problem has reared its head once again in the form of class size. Over the past 7 years as a first grade teacher, I have had class sizes that range from 19-29 students (the cap in New York City for first grade is 32). Each year is different and this year I was relieved to have a very manageable 24 in my room. This means 5 table groups, 5 guided reading groups, 12 reading partnerships, and a line 12 deep behind me in the hallways. Apparently 24 students is not an adequate class size anymore in the city. The city seems to view 24 as a deficit of 8 these days. My school is facing devastating budget cuts if we don't place "bodies" in our classrooms. I was told by my principal today that I will be receiving several new students very shortly to make up for my small class size. While it's not the end of the world for me, after all, I'm a veteran teacher and I've managed larger classes before, it just sucks. It sucks for the kids. Now, I'm going to have to add another table group (where I'll put it in my classroom I have no clue), another guided reading group (meaning less time in the rotation for each group), rug spots that are even more squished, etc. It's a totally different experience managing 27 as opposed to 24. Any teacher can tell you that there is a tipping point in class size and I'd say 26 is it for me. Keep in mind these are first graders and I am by myself with them. After 26, field trips become cumbersome, projects become chaotic, my yearly pumpkin carving becomes a chore, storytelling around the circle becomes storytelling around concentric circles, it's just a mess. Not to mention the fact that these children that I will be getting will have been uprooted from whatever school they are coming from (if any), and will have to adjust to our routines, our classroom, the other students, etc.
Celebrate the legacy of Pura Belpré
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