Normally, I'm pretty good at hiding my anxiety because it's silly but also fairly normal -- I mean, teachers get anxious just like the kids do before the first day of school. But this year ... oh boy, is this year going to be different. And it's got me terrified.
See, there's this little budget problem. Don't know if you, dear reader out there roaming about the Interwebs, are familiar with California's bit of a money problem, but this wee little problem (... if you haven't caught the sarcasm yet, shall I hit you with a stick?) has translated into a huge problem and that is class size.
Now, for some reason, people seem to not really be taking this problem seriously. After all, our test scores have stayed pretty consistently high. Our ELA test scores were mostly the same as the year before, with smaller classes and slightly more resources. Obviously we didn't need those resources in the first place! We can do WAY MORE with WAY LESS!
Except, that at some point, we're not going to be able to. And I have a feeling that "some point" is going to arrive tomorrow. Or at least, the dawn of the "some point" day will break tomorrow.
I have 46 junior APEL students slated to arrive in my first period classroom tomorrow morning -- my classroom that currently holds (barely) 40 desks and 4 chairs. I might teach English, but I can also do math, and that says there's room for 44 students. Those other two? ... I'm contemplating a picnic blanket on the floor. And I wish I were kidding. My room just isn't built for this size of a class, and I'm SURE this has GOT to be a fire hazard somehow. My room is teeny tiny, and I love it, and I don't want to move, but holy crap, the thought of having 46 bodies, plus me, plus 46 backpacks in my classroom is enough to send my already-jittery nerves into a full-tilt panic attack. ::breathes:: You CANNOT effectively teach 46 high schoolers at a time.
I am good. I don't toot my own horn much, really, because I know how much there is still left for me to learn about teaching and organization and planning, and I always see the flaws in what I do, but I'm good. Really good. And though I know I can ATTEMPT to teach 46 with the best of them, and I will do a hell of a job trying to engage all of them and rally all of them and wrangle all of them, but honestly, the quality of their education -- the quality of our classroom relationship, the quality of my feedback to them, the quality of the depth and breadth of the work they'll do for me -- is going to suffer perilously. I cannot physically assign the same amount of things as I used to. I cannot physically counsel, guide, and support them each individually any more. Thankfully, I've embraced things like Facebook and Google Voice and this blog to at least help me get to know my students better, but it's hard. I feel like I learned less about last year's students than any group I've yet had, and that makes me sad. And it helps me recognize that we're doing a huge disservice to these kids by cramming them like sardines into classrooms meant for 30 students. There's no room for anything else. I've already jettisoned furniture. It's just sad and disheartening. It makes me want to scream and cry and teach my ass off.
I guess the only redeeming thing, if you could call it that, is that it seems like everyone is feeling the same way. Teachers are wandering around campus looking completely panic-stricken (... or, perhaps, I'm just projecting my own neurotic fears onto their faces, who knows). But I had at least four conversations today with four different teachers and all of them said echoes of the same thing: "We're so freaked out about how many kids we have on our caseload that we're shutting down and becoming incapable of doing anything productive today." Granted, we all eventually made copies of our syllabi and our first day of school activities, like the good little diligent planners that we are, but what about days 2-175? I can't even fathom. I've got my sophomore curriculum KIND of planned out, but I'm also about to embark on this grand gamification experiment and I really didn't do as much work as I should have this summer to get that up and running, but it's really going to be a lot of trial and error, and I'm going to be really honest with my students about it. After all, it's all about them and their success anyway.
So there you have it. My lunch is packed, clothes laid out, and my copies are sitting in a neat little stack in my classroom. But I'm so terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought about getting back in the saddle tomorrow and having to take the same ride as last year, with less support, less money, less time, and less physical space. I guess it will take some adjusting, but if I run screaming for the hills, mail me care packages, okay?