This is the sort of topic that could get me in trouble, given how many teacher’s I know… Back when I was in school, having smaller classes would have been a bad thing. Most of my teachers will remember me as being a decent-to-good student who stayed out of trouble. This fond recollection is made possible by large classes.
If teacher’s didn’t need to supervise so many students there are countless things which would have been noticed and could have possibly tarnished that teacher-pupil relationship.
Of course when I was in school there was a healthy respect (and a little fear) of teacher’s which doesn’t appear to exist today (among students or parents). So maybe today’s kids are less concerned with being caught doing things that they shouldn’t be doing… and likewise perhaps the parents are less demanding that they don’t.
Thankfully I’m not a teacher so I don’t actually need to deal with that situation directly, but it certainly does seem as though a lot of respect has been lost somewhere along the way, and that’s really unfortunate. If you look at the turnover in teacher’s and if the loss of respect was actually due to any of the teacher’s, those at the bottom and most hurt by changes are unlikely to have had anything to do with it.
It’s actually strange thinking back on being in school, given that I graduated nearly half my lifetime ago (that’s a little scary to realize), but schools and the world are a fundamentally different place. Things which have occurred in the world and dramatically affected the lives of parents and children (and teachers) since then include (in no particular order, and not limited to):
- Harry Potter
- The Internet
- Cell Phones
- Columbine (and other school shootings)
- Integrated classrooms (e.g. special needs students in the classrooms)
- Dual Incomes
There once was a time (and it’s still the case in some countries) where everyone was so pleased or proud to be able to go to school and receive an education that students and parents worked with teachers. Now it seems that there’s such an entitlement to an education that this respect is no longer afforded teachers or even the education system.
I’m enough of a realist to not try to defend all teachers and especially not the education system, there are definitely flaws in both at times. The larger problem though is in a society which essentially requires that students achieve a University degree, but which doesn’t respect the educators which help make that possible. That same society then elects politicians who share that view, and those politicians undermine the system as a whole.
So I joke about not wanting smaller classes, but when I went to school although there were smarter kids and less skilled students, everyone was fluent in French and English; behavioral problems consisted of talking too much during class, or failing to follow instructions. But even so everyone yearned for the teacher’s approval, hoping for positive feedback, or a stamp or sticker. We were not concerned that a student might bring a weapon to school. Bullying happened, but it was limited and it was not of malicious intent. Fights happened, but they resolved issues and everyone moved on (in fact two of my best friends became my friends after such altercations, and we’ve been friends for about a quarter century now). It was a different time, and dare I say a better time?
I often think that when people colour the past and remember it as better than today that they are inventing a past which might not have actually existed. I actually believe that the respect with which teacher’s were treated is something that has diminished over time and to the detriment of all.
So smaller classes, I suspect that it would help in a lot of cases. It would help the teachers, but especially the students. But we would all benefit IF we gave teacher’s more respect for the education and expertise which they have and for the difficult job they do. If we could repair and rebuild this respect, then maybe we could repair and rebuild the system, and perhaps then politicians would have the good sense to offer some deference and respect when addressing education related issues.