Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Numbers Game

Last spring we were told that our enrollment numbers were declining, and that we were losing a number of positions at The School.  The seventh grade took the biggest hit, going from three teams to two teams.  The eighth grade went to two teams, plus a mini-team (including teachers who taught one section of 7th grade "overflow" kids).  And the sixth grade stayed at three teams because sixth graders have such a hard time dealing with the change to middle school in the first place that the thought was to give them some smaller classes to ease the transition.

So, instead of about 90-100 students like I've had the past few years, I now had 120 or so.  If you've been a regular reader of this blog, you know that the numbers game this year has been a mess.   We have some awful unbalanced classes.  However, some of the side effects of only having two teams, and larger classes, weren't really expected.  I didn't realize how much more time I would spend just doing things like grading and keeping up with my gradebook (and not blogging).  Thirty extra kids doesn't seem like a lot when they're spread over five class periods.  But it was when I got home and realized that all I did was grade student work all night long that it really hit home. The other problem was that separating kids by moving their schedules around was almost impossible.  Between the special ed classes, the advanced classes, block scheduling for English/Language Arts, and who knows what else, we had real issues when it came to trying to move kids apart who have no business being together.  With three teams it was a lot easier to just relocate a kid to another team.  This year we have so many kids cross-teamed that we were joking that we wouldn't be able to have teams for Field Day as we're all one big 7th grade team.

And of course, with bigger classes, you have more behavior issues.  The noise level can be incredible at times (just having them come in from the hallway before the bell rings is amazingly loud when there's 30+ of them in one small room).  In addition, they are so crowded together that I feel like I'm on a long road trip with a bunch of kids who've been stuck in the car too long with each other.  They're crammed together, crowded, and tempers flare.  They are cranky.  The seventh grade teachers are cranky.  Mrs. Eagle and I actually asked The Principal a few weeks ago if there was some light at the end of the tunnel or would we be stuck with two teams next year.  She said she wasn't sure at this point in time.

So Mrs. Eagle and I were stunned, to say the least, when The Enforcer said he wanted to get with us (and Mr. and Mrs. Social Studies) to talk about moving kids out of our science and social studies classes into another section taught by eighth grade teachers.  Apparently, what has been going on is that every time a new kid enrolls, that kid happens to be a seventh grader.  So, gradually over the past few months, the seventh grade has been getting bigger and bigger, and the eighth grade has been getting smaller.  In fact, many of the eighth grade teachers had classes of 14-18 kids while we were looking at 28-30 kids.  So we were able to get together with Mr. Enforcer and Guidance Mom and give her a list of kids who we could move to the new section being taught by Mrs. Hummingbird (who was thrilled to get another seventh grade class as she isn't as happy teaching 8th grade content).

We basically picked kids who had schedules that were easy to tweak, and a couple of kids who needed a fresh start with some new kids (Brilliant Boy, being one).   We did make one request that the schedule changes not take place until today, as progress reports went out yesterday and we wanted to be able to print the progress reports up with as little drama as possible.  (In PowerSchool when a kid moves from one class to another, the grades do not go with him/her - the grade report from the old class has to be printed out and then manually entered into the new class - which can be a real pain).  No problem, guidance would see that the schedule changes go into effect on December 1st.

Except PowerSchool didn't see it that way.  So, although it said that none of this was supposed to happen until December 1, the kids had already been moved around from all our rosters on November 30th (actually around 10:00 pm on November 29th which was when Mr. Math noticed it).  Talk about a nightmare.   We had about 40 minutes to print out progress reports, and then print out individual class reports for science and social studies for the kids that moved around, and get everything all lined up so we could send the progress reports home along with a letter from The Principal explaining why the kids were being moved.  


Most of the kids that moved didn't seem all that concerned about the change.  Brilliant Boy, of course, assumed that he was being moved to advanced science and social studies (which does not exist in seventh grade) because it was being taught by and 8th grade teacher in the 8th grade hall.  Whatever.  If that's what he wants to believe, fine.

What we did notice was that today, with our new smaller classes, it was like a different world.  My sixth period which was crowded and full of a lot of high maintenance kids who needed to be in isolation seats (every one is occupied) was a lot of fun today.  The kids noticed right away that Brilliant Boy and Catalyst Boy were gone.  And they were thrilled.  They all know that these two stir up the most trouble in a classroom, and not having them around was like a breath of fresh air.  You could almost feel the relief.  They worked well, they were quiet (for them) and we all had a great time.  They were also able to spread out a bit more and not be crowded at their lab tables.  They really enjoyed that little increase in personal space.

Hopefully this trend will continue.  Especially for the next two days.  Because I'm going to be out at the NSTA conference and a sub will be in the room.

We will see.


W.R. Chandler said...

How funny that this year, my worst-behaved class - by far - is also my smallest class.

It is only 18 students, but you would think it is 48. They managed to place every reprobate they could think of into this little class.

Dan Edwards said...

120 kids a day....! Geeze, I wish! Just about every year I've taught in California, I've had 160 - 175 content kids, plus 22-30 "advisory" kids....per day.

Enjoy your new lower class sizes!