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It’s not the size of the classroom…

August 3, 2009

Interesting things you find on Twitter.  Libby Quaid, one of the top education journalists for Associated Press, tweeted today about responses to her July 31st article on classroom size.

I read the comments, then her article.  Sorry to say, same old “chicken and egg” problem we’re discussing here.  I had to pop over to and leave a comment on what’s REALLY going on here.

The argument essentially goes like this: teachers need smaller classroom sizes so that they can be more effective in the classroom.  Rumor has it (and you can find studies on both sides of the argument), that smaller classrooms=more individualized attention=better outcomes for all students.

The flip side says that classroom size is less important than effective teachers.  Ok, but how do you “create” or “build” more effective teachers?

But, I have a third side of the coin that it seems people aren’t considering: the impact of too many students who lack adequate social skills, character and values development that allows them to operate effectively in the classroom environment.

This has a negative impact on EVERY single aspect of the learning environment.

It doesn’t matter if you have a classroom size of 20/25/30 — even a few kids who are unruly and disruptive, who lack respect and consideration for the needs of others, can ruin the learning experience for ALL.

“Individualized instruction” isn’t going to happen unless you homeschool.  There will be times in any classroom where a “group” has to operate together, or independently, while other things go on — teacher spends a little more time with one student working on a difficult concept or task, for example. What does the rest of the class do at that time?  Right now: generally they get into trouble or at best, off task. 

The reality is, we will NEVER be able to reduce class sizes to the point of educational nirvana.  Smaller classrooms means more classrooms, means more teachers, means more schools, means more administrators, ad nauseum. On the other hand, if, as statisitics show, our teachers today are losing 30/40/50% of productive classroom time dealing with disruptive students, this IS something we have a chance of dealing with.We’re already wasting a significant portion of our educational dollars by not dealing with classroom disruption/discipline/bullying, etc.  Before we stand out there asking for MORE money, more teachers, more classrooms, how ’bout we improve the effectiveness of what we DO have?

It’s not about reducing class sizes to the point where they are “manageable” — it’s about managing the classrooms sizes we have. With an emphasis on social skills education and discipline in the schools, we can improve the learning opportunities for everyone involved. That’s not only penny-wise, it’s pound-effective and we’d be surprised how many other things get better at the same time.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Jen permalink
    August 3, 2011 10:07 am

    Kinda hard when admin doesnt back u up and the undisciplined kids get no punishment.

    • Corinne Gregory permalink*
      August 3, 2011 11:45 am

      No, you are right. But, even if you had a small classroom with a few undisciplined kids, it’d still be a problem. In any situation, admin and staff have got to be on the same page. And, sadly, that’s not always the case.

  2. annoyed teacher permalink
    August 3, 2011 1:24 pm

    What a shameless plug for your Social Smarts program, just like any other product advertising pitch. I’d love to see you teach my classes for a day and see if you would still say this. I have a Grade 8 class of 15 which has half a dozen extremely unruly boys including one with ADHD and another with learning disabilities. Despite this, the small size of this class makes it very easy to manage and I am able to get soooo much more effective teaching done than in my larger classes and give each child the individual attention they need. I’ve had classes over 30 in the past and this was just not possible. I’ve looked at some of your articles and you are so out of touch with the reality of the classroom it is not funny.

    • Corinne Gregory permalink*
      August 3, 2011 1:36 pm

      You may see it as a shamelss plub, Neroli, but I relay it as what our schools across the country report to us that they have experienced through our program. As I’ve said, situations like yours where you have a high number of “challenged” students does make it hard — I would not suggest that, in your case, you have 30 kids of that demographic. That’s not reasonable.

      But, even in “normal” classrooms with kids that have no special challenges, the level of disruption that occurs is ridiculous. So many teachers just write it off as “kids being kids,” but that does a disservice to you, the teacher, as well as EVERY student in the learning environment. You may believe I’m out of touch with the classroom, but I’ve had plenty of experience in them — both good ones and bad ones. If you want to see what a classroom SHOULD look like, I invite you to check out this video. Then, tell me if that’s not the kind of environment every teacher — and child — deserves.

      I thank you for taking the time to read my articles and for commenting. I hope you’ll come back again.

      • Michael M permalink
        August 3, 2011 2:41 pm

        Not that your program, by default, wouldn’t be helpful– but you’re also presuming that it’s a larger issue now than it ever has been. It’s not; there are just many students going to school for longer (year-wise) coupled with inexperienced teachers who are in high-needs (read: challenging) areas with a lack of understanding of classroom management.

        Having taught classroom management to a few teachers, in addition to being a teacher simultaneously/before, I can say that it’s the difference between night and day. It’s a step-up from non-compliance to compliance, and once that’s down, you can focus on engagement and reaching students at a deeper (and more longer-impacting) level. Of course, yes, this requires administrative support (which I feel may be the largest overall issue, along with parental neglect, in our school system)– but assuming that’s there, it’s been the thing I’ve seen making the biggest change in the classroom.

      • Corinne Gregory permalink*
        August 3, 2011 4:06 pm

        Oh, Michael, you are so correct. It’s unfortunate that so many teachers don’t learn effective classroom management as a routine matter of THEIR education. That’s why SocialSmarts is structured the way it is…not only are the teachers teaching the students lessons on social skills, it gives them a framework by which they can manage their classes, if they are not as experienced in that area as others. And, usually, when schools bring in our program, the administration and the teaching staff is very aligned in its goals so there is a committment to improved learning culture.

        We actually have a workshop we do (and have created a standalone product) called “Classroom Management for Success.” We’re offering it as a webinar on August 16th and 18th — here’s the link for more info:

        Also, if you don’t have time to participate in the interactive webinar, there is a CD-based product that covers much of the same content.

        I don’t want to make this an informercial for our products, but if folks want more resources, they are available.

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