Articles for Teachers

The Student-teacher Relationship
By:Adam Waxler

Being a teacher who has moved from New York to Florida I am often asked to compare the two…actually I find myself comparing the New York school system to the Florida school system even if I'm not asked .

The truth is though, the two systems are so different it is difficult to draw any concrete conclusions…as my dad would say, "It's like comparing apples and oranges".

However, recently I did get a taste of what I really miss about teaching in New York…small class sizes.

Due to a school trip over 40 of my students were absent from school last week. Normally on days like this I just show a movie and write it up to a lost day of teaching. However, this day I decided to teach the lesson as planned and had the absent students simply make up the missing assignments. This made for some very small classes that day and made teaching an absolute delight. In fact, the students themselves said the same thing. I couldn't help but think back to my days teaching in New York.

I guess I should not make generalizations…there may be many New York schools that have large classes, I just happened to be lucky enough to teach at a school with small classes. Just to give you an example, my last year teaching in New York I had 80 students spread out over 5 classes for an average of 16 students per class. This year, teaching in Florida, I have 132 students spread out over 6 classes for an average of 22 students per class.

Now, of course, 22 students is not really something to complain about, but remember, they are spread out over SIX classes.

When my current school district decided to have all their middle school teachers teach six classes instead of the five we taught the previous year, the middle schools in the county were able to reduce their class sizes…which is good. However, my overall number of students actually increased from 112 the previous year to 132 this school year…not good.

What I think so many people don't understand about the importance of class size is that it is not just the individual class numbers that are important, but it also the overall numbers that are important. An increase in the overall number of students forces the teacher to spend more time on grading essays, tests, homework etc. and less time creating and developing effective lessons.

However, whether we are talking about a teacher's overall number of students or individual class size numbers, the fact of the matter is, large numbers are bad for both the student and the teacher.

You see, one of the most important factors governing student learning is the student-teacher relationship. However, not only is the student-teacher relationship one of the most important factors, but it is also one of the most overlooked factors.

No one should underestimate the impact that the student-teacher relationship has on student learning.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, the biggest problem with having large classes is not the added amount of grading and administrative tasks, it is not the added classroom management problems….the biggest problem with large classes is simply that it deteriorates the student-teacher relationship.

Adam Waxler
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