I mentioned that I was going to be working some in an 8th grade classroom. I did that last week and the class has been on my mind ever since.
There are 32 children in the class and they all really want to learn. The trouble is that that it feels like they ALL need individual attention. So you give directions, and then you walk around the classroom giving the directions again individually while they wait for you to get to them and get into mischief.
Thirty-two 8th graders in the same classroom, not to mention the 32 neediest kids in the school in the same classroom is a systemic issue and not one that I have a magic wand to solve. Ms. K and I have decided that the thing to do is to split the class in half for drafting of their research papers so that we can give them some more individual attention. It's a good solution but not a viable one for the real world. I'm there volunteering. I have 10 years of classroom experience under my belt along with a PhD in Urban Literacy. She has almost 20 years of experience, a master's degree and is a highly qualified, creative teacher with only this one class to teach. This classroom is my wheel house. And it's still very, very hard teaching because of the sheer number of students in the class that desperately need individual attention. There are teachers all over the state - the country - with multiple classes of students in just this same situation with no highly trained volunteer to help out.
So I'm problematized about this article I want to write. We are managing to engage the students with some real world writing and I do believe that the pieces that come out of this work will be notable. But it will take BOTH of us to accomplish this and that's just not something that's readily replicable. In my head this is becoming about the dire need for smaller class size.