Actor Boy has been in town for a few days. We have had several conversations on what we want to do over the next few years. I don’t dare say “Five year plan”, because in five years I will be fifty and the sheer concept will make me want to go on some kind of ice-cream/drinking/crime spree, and that helps no one.
I realize that Actor Boy and I have the luxury of planning and rational discussion because both have food, shelter and access to clean water. We also have a strong support system in place and have a reasonable assurance of personal safety. (The ceiling catching on fire next week is story for another time.)
We have the luxury of time and ability to intelligently discuss our plan.
This luxury, combined with my course work and job search in the field of education, leads me to the question, what is the biggest problem in public education? Well, that depends on who you ask.
According to the Public School Review, class size and poverty are at the top of the list, closely followed by family issues and technology. (http://www.publicschoolreview.com/articles/434)
There are a total of ten things on the list all of which boils down to the facts that there are too many needs for far too few resources. In the past semester, I worked with a few elementary schools, a few middle schools and two different high schools. Class size is indeed a big problem because it limits the most valuable resource in the class, the teacher. Because there are legal issues, not to mention crowd control, a second teacher is added to the mix when there are more than twenty-two students enrolled in the class. (This is legal, but it is no secret that it is rarely enforced.) In a high school setting, it begins to look like the world’s worst hostess party.
Full-time teachers have five classes a day. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you toss in a planning period where you must track down signatures, supplies and make copies and race back to your classroom and a “conference period” where, if you’re lucky, you will be meeting with concerned parents who want to help you help their student. All of that when you are more than likely dehydrated because if you do have time to get a drink of water, when do you have time to use the restroom? Sprinkle in the classroom management component which suggests that you monitor all classroom activity by strolling around the room as you teach. Much of this time will be spent dodging around backpacks or other supplies various student bodies who are trying to balance themselves in and around the desks of the over-crowded classroom. Now imagine there are two teachers trying to do this at the same time.
This is just the first problem. I have no idea of how to try and fix it. I know I can’t help everyone, but how many will I help if I don’t try?