Bursting From The Seams

Classroom size is an ever growing problem in the public school system today in the United States and in my education in North Carolina. As budgeting decreases, the number of students per classroom rises. There have been countless studies saying that the smaller the teacher to student ratio is the better the learning environment is. Here lies the question: why are we settling for large classroom sizes?

In my four years in high school, I had class sizes ranging from 14 to 42. Yes, I wrote 42. That was a huge class, it was Honors US History with Mr. Gardner and he even said he had never had a class of that size. He had to put kids at his own teacher desk because we were out of desks and tables. While everyone in that class was a junior, classroom management was a huge factor. We were well behaved and our teacher handled it well but that doesn’t make it right. Let’s look at my 14 person class. It was AP Latin at 7:30 in the morning, so I understand why it was so small. But I also had 15 and 16 student classes which were my AP Language and AP Literature classes respectively.

While classroom size has been on the rise, many ideas have been thrown out from the obvious of hire more teachers to give the better teachers bigger classroom and train mediocre teachers to match greatness of others. I understand the reasoning behind the argument that hiring teacher is just too expensive. However I don’t know how much I agree with the thought of the second argument. Read a more a detailed description here is you wish (http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/04/does-class-size-count/?_r=0). As the article points out, what system can be used to determine the ‘better’ teachers and will it gain the support of parent. Parents for years believe in small class sizes and honestly so do I. Especially in college having a small class is a great opportunity to not only gain relationship with fellow classmates but it serves as a forum for discussion where ideas and opinions can develop. Even in my smaller classes in high school I experienced setting like this. Smaller class actually allowed time and space for discussion about books and reasoning behind the authors. Also the coolest part about small classes is the relationship between the teacher and student. In every small class (and even recitation) the personal relationship is a great resource for students.

Mr. Gardner was still good at the personable aspect of his class; he was an adventurist teacher who took on the large class as a challenge. He was the kind of teacher that when learning about WWI let us recreate bunkers with our desk and we would throw paper balls at each other. Then one person had to go into no one’s land, this was all to teach us about the battle tactics and environment of the war. Not all teachers are like the one I had. It can be very overwhelming to lead a classroom with 42 high schoolers, so what is our solution? Do we hire more teachers or watch our numbers rise?


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7 Responses to Bursting From The Seams

  1. Eric says:

    The irony is that we have more and more educators in school systems but fewer teachers (proportionally): http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_clr.asp.


  2. Brian says:

    Just to clarify: You are addressing the issue of class size (# of students), not classroom size (the size of the room in which students learn).


  3. jme says:

    It is true that more and more “educators” are hired, administrators and others at a higher salary than teachers receive, but that doesn’t reduce class size. One more boss to whom the teacher must report does not allow the teacher to do what she needs to do to teach more effectively, it just gives her more paperwork and morestress. There are still 42 students in the room, there is just more stuff for the teacher to do.


  4. cerouse2015 says:

    In elementary school, I had large classes of over thirty students. When I switched schools in 4th grade, the class size had shrunk to about twenty children per class. Although I think that smaller class sizes tend to foster more discussion and debate, other cultures tend to have a different view on class sizes. In the book, Preschool in Three Cultures Revisited, preschools in China, Japan and the United States were recorded and the teachers were interviewed about a typical day. In one of the studies, a preschool classroom in Japan had seventeen students. In Japan, many educators believe that number is too low for optimal social development. They believe that a large class of about twenty-five allows students to learn how to be a member of a group and how to handle petty issues or disagreements by themselves with a teacher overseeing it all. I am curious what your opinion is on this different concept of class size.


    • abbymevans2015 says:

      Hi! I think you are introducing an interesting point. I think that in America, we have a much more “caretaker” approach to our young grades. I believe that parents search for preschool where the ratio of kids to teacher is very low. They want their kids to have attention so their early education skills can be developed. This is very different from what your wrote in your comment but it offered an interesting comparison of the two systems! Thank you for sharing your thoughts!


  5. Casper Rhay says:

    The solution is obviously to set a classroom capacity cap, bus the overflow kids to the local library, buy a bunch of computers with webcams, and let them do their work their in absolute silence. Haha.

    Great article though! And you seem to be getting some very interesting responses


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