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The Rising Body Count November 14, 2010

Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Okay, if I had more time, I'd make this pile o' babies look more multicultural like my own students.

I’m afraid blogging has taken a back seat to crowd control. Yes, I started the year with eight additional students. Those eight extra students might as well be 20. Forget Octo-mom. I’m Octo-teacher!

I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of students. When two third grade classes got off the bus to go swimming, the kids just kept a comin’.  It was like the clown car at the circus.

Reluctantly, I’ve switched to two lines. Some teachers do separate lines for boys and girls, but we know which line will always be ready to roll. I’ve tried to equal the odds – literally. Since all students have a class number based on their first name, the odds and evens have their own lines.

The first few weeks, I thought the odds were I was going to go insane just trying to maneuver my class from Point A to Point B. I’ve taken to walking backwards, my hands holding up one finger for the odds and two for the evens. It feels like I’m guiding a jumbo jet to the gate. I have to stand in the middle to keep the lines separate, as the children seem to be magnetically attracted to each other. Once they’ve passed and are standing in two orderly lines, I “take a walk down the aisle.”  “Don’t spoil my wedding!” I say to the kids oozing into my space. My students have taken to humming the wedding march as I move between the lines. You gotta love third graders.

The extra kids mean two more tables of students sitting where I used to store supplies. The supplies now sit in bins in front of my desk. I covered them with pillows and allow those lucky few to “sit in the balcony,” as my entire class can no longer fit on the rug when I do the Word Knowledge lesson.

I began teaching in 1997, the year after class-size reduction went into effect in California. Though a little long in the tooth, I’ve never taught a class of 35 squirrelly first graders doing the potty dance. The teachers in 4th and 5th grade have dealt with larger numbers for years. In theory, the older kids are able to sit still longer. Hey, I said “in theory!” At least they’re no longer wetting their pants (in theory).

But I’ll tell you this. As hard as I try, there’s just no way I can give each one of those students the individual attention they need and deserve. More papers to copy, more papers to correct, more report cards to write, more parents to conference with. This is a case where more is less. Some of the best teachers I know are straining under the weight of additional students. It’s like being a waitress during rush hour when someone has called in sick. There’s no silver lining. And there’s no tips.

Today’s students are not the same students I went to school with in the suburban Midwest. These are kids who too often have received the short end of the stick before they ever set foot in school. We’ve got children in kindergarten who have IEPs (Individual Education Plans) due to severe emotional disturbance and a host of other disorders, some diagnosed, others not. Fractured families and families with both parents working just to make ends meet. I just conferenced with many of my parents and was amazed at how many are under incredible stress, but still confident that I will somehow work miracles with their child. Do they know something I don’t know? Oh yeah, I’m Octo-Teacher.

I came across a hilarious video from The Saturday Night Armistice out of the U.K. Enjoy.


1. Tracy - November 14, 2010

I have to say that I feel for you, Jan…although my classes as a child (circa mid-1960’s) were rather large- say, 30-35 kids even then. I can’t imagine trying to reign in that many myself- but my teachers were all fairly strict and no-nonsense. There was also the knowledge that acting out meant a trip to the principal and the paddle- something unthinkable now, but a very persuasive tool at that time for keeping the unruly kids in line.

I laughed so hard at that video, btw~ my 16 yr. old son saw it & asked me to send the link to his email so he could send it to his friends- lol,


Tracy, Glad you and your son got such a kick out of the video. I just happened upon it and laughed myself silly. Jan


2. Sheri O'Brien - November 14, 2010

You had me at, “One girl produced a sword.” Funny video. Not-so-funny reality. Even though I have eleven students, they all have learning disabilities, and therefore it always feels like more. It’s almost Thanksgiving break. We get a week to include furlough days. I guess we should be thankful for a paycheck, albeit, a reduced paycheck. Hang in there, and don’t let em’ spoil your wedding! 😉

Sheri – Lucky you. We get four days. Maybe my students can help with the food prep in the classroom, though I don’t want them around knives. Jan


3. Lisa - November 14, 2010

Great post. Great video. Thanks for the laugh before we head back into the chaos.

Lisa – My mantra has always been, “I expect chaos, so I’m never disappointed.” Jan


4. jason - November 14, 2010

if i was marking your sentence structure: mastery


5. The Rising Body Count (via planetjan) « Catherine Sherman - November 14, 2010

[…] I'm afraid blogging has taken a back seat to crowd control.  Yes, I started the year with eight additional students. Those eight extra students might as well be 20.  Forget Octo-mom.  I'm Octo-Teacher! I'm not alone in feeling overwhelmed by the she … Read More […]


6. Catherine Sherman - November 14, 2010

You can see from comment Number Five that I’ve re-blogged your post. Now I’m going to bask in the reflection of your humor. You always make me laugh so hard. If anyone can keep those kids under control and also learning and loving it, it’s you!



7. Sandy - November 15, 2010

You are a saint Jan!! THis was such a great story not to mention hilarious video, OMG, I’ll be laughing all day today!

Sandy – I’ve heard so much about you. I look forward to meeting you one day. Jan


8. bug_girl - December 29, 2010

Where in the world did you find that video?? LOL!
And, thank you for fighting the good fight.

Bug Girl,
I googled “ideal class size” and literally stumbled upon it. Happy, happy, joy, joy! Fleas Navidad to you also. 🙂 Jan


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