This year in my class I experienced something I have never experienced in the 26 years since I started teaching. I experienced having 30 first graders in my class! The night of the first day of school I sobbed… ‘How will we survive the year?’ Of course we would survive and I would teach, but Room One would look and feel way different than any other year. Even with a full-time assistant, a part time student teacher and a child who needed a one-on-one aide my students were just functioning (at best) rather than flourishing.
We were bumping into furniture because there were two extra tables and 8 extra chairs in our room. We had to get rid of some drawers of math manipulatives so there was room for the children to put their things. We were constantly in each other’s personal space and couldn’t make a straight line in our room to head to recess. We spent time with our heads down quite often and one day I had to yell just to be heard. We were all on edge and those children who needed extra attention and patience were often acting out and spending time out of the classroom in the Connecting Room because of behavior. Those little lovelys who were always doing the right thing got almost no attention at all – usually just a hug at the end of the day and a big thank you for doing the right thing.
One little guy in particular spent time in the Connecting Room, the principal’s office or had to get picked up almost daily. We were considering a special behavior plan to help him cope. It was going to be a very long year in Room One.
I agonized. I cried. And, I went to my principal. The first time was after school that very first day. “I don’t think I can do this all year and if it doesn’t change I don’t know how I will make it 9 more years until I can retire”. He was shocked. He knows that I love my job, I love children, I love to teach and that I was an upbeat positive person. That weekend I looked for other job options. Tuesday morning the following week I went back to my principal and told him I was looking for other jobs. Really, I was. Then I started to ask about what it would take to split the classes of 30 into three classes of 20. He agreed as did the superintendent and school board. Last week it finally happened!
We have been in three classes for almost two weeks now. I am finally getting to know my students. I get to sit with students and listen to them read, help children with math, and do individual assessments… There is a calm and peace that begin each day…. and that little guy who spent every day struggling and got sent home more than once… he hasn’t had a single moment in time out, not one trip to the Connecting Room or the principal’s office and instead has brought home a note to his family saying ‘It was a great day!’ four times… Size really does matter!