Class size matters

A few weeks ago, I helped small groups of students review a math skill while their teacher spent time teaching a new skill to a few students at a time. The teacher did the important work that varied from easy to difficult, depending on the student. My task was a bingo type game that should have been fun.

The students hated the math bingo game. The ones who understood the skill were bored. The ones who were still learning the skill, were unhappy in a million different ways. In exchange for completing one full bingo game without problems, I let them take turns typing in the answers to the exact same skill on an iPad game. This was unanimously popular.

One student understood the skill. Even though she was bored by the bingo game, she made it entertaining for herself. When another student struggled, she whispered in their ear. I could have adjusted the level of the iPad game to make it more difficult and she would have figured it out. This little girl was so self confident that she sparkled. In an auditorium style class of 100 students, she would still learn. She wouldn’t blend. She would stand out and be known. Class size will not matter to this little girl. She is going to thrive.

Another little girl was still figuring out the skill. She may have been on the cusp of getting it or she may need to step back several steps to relearn the building blocks of the skill. I couldn’t tell, because she was so paralyzed by anxiety over how she compared to her classmates, that she couldn’t focus on anything. She was concerned that her question was harder than someone else’s. If her question seemed too easy, had I deliberately given her an easy one? She tried valiantly to be invisible, to let someone else think for her, to just survive until lunch. This little girl needs a small class. She needs to be seen. She needs to learn to sparkle.

The education reform movement is a thinly veiled effort to do many things that are not in the best interest of children. Schools should not be factories with test results serving as quotas to keep jobs and save schools. Children are not assembly line products. Students are so much more than ACT scores.

Education is not a one size fits all process. Class size matters.

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