Teacher points out how class composition does matter
Editor: “Why does Christy Clark hate kids, Mom?” That’s the question my seven-year-old daughter asked me. I didn’t know how to reply to that. However, even before I could answer her with a simplified version of a complicated issue, my nine-year-old son interrupted and said, “I don’t think she hates kids, she just doesn’t even care about them, or the teachers.” Exactly.
I feel guilty because I come home from work as a teacher with stories of how difficult my day was. Each night as we sit around the dinner table, my family listens to my tales of extreme violent behaviour in the classroom and on the playground that I had to deal with that day, or the students in my class who are struggling in math, so much so that I can’t teach them the Grade 4 curriculum. How do I teach division concepts to those who can’t add yet?
My class is your average Grade 4 class in Langley. There are several kids who often provide extreme behaviour challenges, some kids who have severe attention issues and struggle with organization, some who need a lot of academic support in math or reading or writing, or all. Some kids are new to Canada and don’t read or write English yet. Some have family issues, and need emotional support or counselling. Many children struggle with attention deficit, have learning disabilities, have behaviour problems, or social and emotional issues.
It’s also got some great kids who want to be there to learn. They are the ones I feel sorry for. They are the ones who try their best at school, they wait patiently with their hands up for me to come around, they complete their homework. They want to listen to a lesson without being interrupted by students with behaviour issues.
I worry about the kids who are capable. Their learning suffers as they are forced to listen to tantrums and witness physical violence against others in the class. They can’t be challenged because there are too many in the class who need more time and support to understand the concepts we are teaching. There just isn’t enough time.
The truth is, I am not the teacher I want to be right now. I can’t get to all the kids with the learning challenges, and all the ones with “adapted” programs. I can’t teach and manage the disruptions caused by behaviours that have put other students at risk for injury. I might as well forget about challenging the bright ones.
Parents, you have a child that falls into one of these categories. I have children that fall into these categories. Our children are not given enough support. We need to stand together and advocate for our children’s rights to a quality education.
Clark has taken away my ability to do a job I love, despite all its challenges. I love teaching, always have. I love helping students learn, I live for those “light bulb” moments. I dress up. I bring in props. I design fun and interesting lessons for my students.
We did not get into this profession for the money or the summers off. We love working with children, helping them to become participating members of society. We are dedicated, we volunteer countless hours, we sacrifice evenings and weekends, and we do it without complaint because we love teaching and we love children.
We are deeply concerned that we can’t do this job well any more, because there are too many kids in the class. Although the actual number of students we are responsible for is a problem, it isn’t what I am most concerned about. I’m worried about the students with designated special needs. I worry about the ever increasing number of “gray area” kids who slip through the cracks.
There is not enough support for them, and not enough time for us as teachers to help them all. They get passed on from grade to grade, without meeting the expectations, and falling further and further behind.
For Clark to say that class size has no bearing on education tells me she has never spent a day in any classroom in B.C., where there are kids literally packed in and the teacher is desperately trying to manage them all, while meeting all of their learning needs. Yet she was the education minister.
We need smaller class sizes so we can give better support, more one-on-one support to your children. We need more support time from SEA’s and resource teachers to help the “gray area” students, as well as the students with special needs. We want your children’s social, emotional and academic needs to be met.
Class composition means that teachers can teach effectively when there are fewer students with social, behavioural or academic needs in the classroom. It would put a cap on the number of these students.
We want your children to be the best they can be, to be successful, to feel pride in their accomplishments, just like you do. Class size and composition matters.