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The Party’s Over June 13, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Politics, Teaching.
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The notice was put in the teachers’ mailboxes today (Friday afternoon).  The bottom line – Due to the state of California’s severe budget crisis, the gates of Hell have been thrown open. We’d already been told that class sizes in September were going from 20 to 22.  But today we were informed that class sizes could go to 25, or as high as 31.   Oh, and that there could be layoffs of teachers as late as August 15th. There was no Happy Hour today.   The mood amongst teachers was bewildered, even somber.

My first year of teaching was in 1997, when the state had just reduced the class size in grades K-3 to 20 to 1.  Oh, the stories the veteran teachers could tell – of teaching 35 of those wiggley, “I’ve got to go to the bathroom!” first graders.  And they were still standing (the teachers that is).  I’m afraid that 20 to 1 is all I’ve ever known.  I did a stint of student teaching in the fourth grade where the class size is typically 30+, but those kids are big and can sit in a chair (okay, most of them).  It took me three weeks just to memorize all of their names.

I’m not worried about my job.  This is my fifth year with the district, but other colleagues, who are also my friends, aren’t so lucky.  When the first round of RIFs (Reduction in Force notices) went out on March 15, teachers lower in seniority were put on notice.  In years past, this was always a formality, and they were hired back come September, when the classes filled up.  But these are strange times.

According to the local paper, 160 students at a local Christian school are leaving due to their parents’ own budget crises.  I’m pretty sure those kids will be coming to a school near me,  and it will have the word “public” in in. But, how this will sort itself out is anybody’s guess.

It didn’t help that the news came after a long day of trying to pack up the classroom while keeping the students busy engaged.  I believe I am the only teacher in history to accomplish this without showing the students a movie.   A group of boys constructed an Amazonian forest in a huge cardboard box, while another group of students was busy “stitching” on their burlap flags. Stitching is not to be confused with “sewing,”  which is a girlie pursuit.   I fashioned “needles” out of paperclips and the kids went to town and did a surprisingly good job.  Only later another teacher informed me that there were in fact real big plastic needles the kids could have used.  Oh.  I’m big at reinventing the wheel,

I only mention this because none of these activities would be possible with 30 plus kids in the room.  Someone literally might poke their neighbor’s eye out with that paperclip due to lack of elbow room.  Come September, space in my classroom could be disappearing as rapidly as the rain forest in the Amazon.

This gives a whole new meaning to June Gloom in Southern California.

Photo credit:  The Unruly Birthday Party  by Jan Marshall.

Comments»

1. lilikaofthelake - June 13, 2009

HA! “without showing them a movie” …both my wee ones were treated to movies yesterday and the day before. It was bubble day today with a half day and poor teachers already with the 25 per class up here. Waldorfs – about 18 in the lower grades, 18-27 towards middle school but then you need that many to put on the most wonderful plays!! The Battle re-enactments are superb with a larger audience as well. My worries are for the cuts in special needs that are not classified as such. The Sorrow filled newly divorced children or the abused bullies and the pagent princesses. Sports and Art and Music etc. Teachers always get the shaft and they are the levee’s against the rising flood of anger and frustration, the loss of innocence and sense.
Put away your cell phones, you are only 10!!!

Anyway…. Learn the Smart Board tech and you can write your own ticket anywhere is my feeling. That is the future. I am amazed at what is coming. They will spend money on that you can be sure before they hire more teachers.
Big hugs and Happy Summer VaKay Jan! If I were signing your yearbook I would say that and that you are the COOLEST 🙂

LOL – Thanks for adding VaKay to my vocabulary. Yearbooks are only $20 this year (they could still be trying to unload LAST YEAR’S yearbook), but I don’t want to shell out the dough. I’ll need it over the summer. Yes, as you so eloquently wrote, “teachers always get the shaft.” Another friend who teaches Kinder said she’s thinking of getting a herding dog to be her Teacher’s Aide. Hmmmm – I think she might be onto something… Jan

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2. institutrice - June 13, 2009

Amen! I refuse to show movies, too, or take them outside for extra recess. (Some teachers have been doing that for three weeks already.) It’s my personal mission to show my fifth graders how to have fun without being plugged in or running around screaming like a maniac. Mostly it works. 😉

Insitutrice –
I’ve found that most of my third graders have already spent quality time in front of the tube, so they actually have a lot more fun working on a “project.” My mother would never let me watch TV when I was a child unless I was also doing something “useful.” I learned how to embroider dish towels (now there’s a valuable skill!), but when I taught second grade for two years, I held my students to the same standard. When we were invited over to another teacher’s classroom to watch a movie at the end of the year, my students arrived with their card weaving, which they found way more interesting. 😉 Jan

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3. Catherine Sherman - June 13, 2009

I’m not a teacher, but even I know that the chaos increases exponentially the more kids there are in the class. I hope it’s not too horrible. If anyone can lasso those kids and educate/engage them at the same time, it’s you.

And Wow, the Unruly Birthday Party. I didn’t know you had a copy. I thought I had the only one left in the world, even though it is your work, and it was a print! That was the beginning of my art collecting.

Catherine – A round of smiles all around. Jan

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4. Janelle - June 25, 2009

Food for thought: Kids are leaving rural school districts in Montana so that they can enjoy (and I’m not kidding) knitting classes in larger school districts. So … I guess the lesson here is that class size doesn’t always matter, but sports and recreation do!

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