What to do with small class sizes?

I’m sure this is going to bizzare, but I have a problem with small class sizes.

Not small like 20 students. I mean small like 8 students.

I teach at a VERY small school. There are about 115 students in 6 grades (7-12). Core classes are at a good size (generally 20-30) but options classes are quite small. A CTS class has about 6 students, my band class has 7 students and an extra History class has 2 students.

Now perhaps it’s great to have 2 students in a class, but for my band class it is a huge disadvantage. I can barely play any legitimate high school band music. I feel like my students are at a huge loss because they won’t have the experience of playing in a large ensemble. Also if even one of them is sick or away we lose a major part of anything we are rehearsing.

Now on the other side of this discussion is that many, MANY other schools in my board are suffering from the opposite issue. They have upwards of of 40-50 students in their core classes and up to 70 in their elective classes. Couldn’t they just lend me some students?

What’s a teacher to do?

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Merit Pay – Canada Edition

In case you don’t know merit pay is kind of a tough topic to deal with. According to wikipedia, “Merit pay is a term describing performance-related pay, most frequently in the context of educational reform. It provides bonuses for workers who perform their jobs effectively, according to measurable criteria. In the United States, policy makers are divided on whether merit pay should be offered to public school teachers, as is commonly the case in the United Kingdom.”

There has been many talks among many school boards about merit pay. Mostly in the States but it has started to become a discussion in Canada. Many of you know that I am based out of Canada but I like to know about all of North America specifically.

When I came across this article, it kinda got my wheels turning about this topic. Sure it would be cool to get a little extra money for doing what I do best (or so I think), but do I want to be judged consistently throughout my career? Not really…

Also how is the whole system going to work? Teachers who have more “difficult”classes get more just because their students are coded/special needs or those who have the top students in the board get more? How would we be judged? I don’t think there is any one way that this could be decided. There are so many factors involved in teaching. New teachers would barely have a chance of making anything and they’re are the ones that need it (Come on, 6 years of school!).

And what about the students?

Would having a financial incentive really prompt me to do my job any better? Right now, I would do my job and not get paid. I love my job. I love my students and I only ever want them to be as successful as they can be. Giving me more money isn’t going to change that.

For merit pay to work, I honestly think it would take a really long time to sort out all the kinks.

Do you want merit pay? Would it make a difference on the students?

Junk Food Laws

Recently the school board I work for changed their policies on vending machines. As far as I know, all schools in the system have replaced pop/soda with healthier alternatives as well as the snacks machines. Some schools have even gone so far as to remove them entirely.

When I went to school (which was in the last 10 years) we still had all that ‘unhealthy’ stuff. I will admit that the occasional bag or chips or chocolate bar would be the perfect way to get over that failed test or whatever else had gone wrong in the day. I personally never abused this privilege but I sure know people who did.

I’m curious to know whether these new changes and laws (all over Canada and the United States) are actually going to make a difference in the lives of children?

Junk Food Laws May Help Curb Childhood Obesity This article found on Huffington Post Education, talks about a few studies done that prove that states with strong laws on junk food have kids who gain less weight at critical growth years. I encourage you to read it and form your own opinions.

I’m still going to encourage my students to learn about nutrition and make their own healthy decisions.

Getting a Job – My Story

I wish I had been smarter about this and wrote more about it when I was going through the process, but I didn’t.

I was very lucky to have my final practicum school offer me a 6 month temporary contract covering a maternity leave. I had my final presentation, passed in Wednesday afternoon and in my silliness took the next morning off. Turns out my principal had brought in a recruitment person from the school board I wanted to be a part of and I missed an opportunity to have an interview. Luckily my principal told me I could have the next morning off to go to an interview. Off I went and turns out the same person had worked with my husband a few years back. We hit it off and I felt like I delivered an excellent interview. On my drive back to the school I kept going over what I had said and wondered if it was what they were looking for.

When I returned to the school (for a staff meeting) I went in like nothing had happened because not everyone knew I had this interview. After the interview my principal asked to see me. Of course the automatic thought was that I had done something wrong and was going to be corrected. As I sat down he shut the door and slowly took his seat.

“How do you feel about teaching French?”

“Fine. I can do it.”

“Would you like to teach Grade 4?”

“Uhh. Yes.”

“Well congratulations you have the job!”

“Holy… really? THANK YOU!”

Turns out as soon as I had left the office my interviewer had called him and told him to hire me. I was exactly what they were looking for and he had even set up two mentors for me to rely on in the next 6 months. I was so happen to be able to walk back into the staff room and have him announce that I wasn’t leaving in December but that I would be staying on. As far as I know, everyone was quite happy to have me stay on and be a part of the team. It was a change from my Grade 1 & 2 music to Grade 4 general, but the fit couldn’t have been better. Those 6 months were the best way to start my career.

Those six months ended in June. I was devastated to have to leave the school, as there was no longer a position for me. Unless of course I wanted to take another temporary contract and it would be only for 4 months. It was not worth my time. My fabulous principal kept the 3 temp. contract teachers in the loop as much as he could. Being a specialist (music, drama, art, languages, etc.) gave me an advantage as they’re always needed within a school board. Therefore it wasn’t much of a surprise when I was the first one to get a phone call. It was for an elementary school (I would be the music teacher) in an area of the city I was unfamiliar with. I went to the interview with as much knowledge as I could get from past school newsletters, teachers I knew who had taught in the area, and anything else I could get my hands on. The school admin were friendly and allowed me some time to look at the questions before we went through with the interview.

I thought it had gone well. I got a phone call but I was not the right person for the job. I was almost relieved because I think after the interview it wasn’t the right school for me. About a week later I got another phone call, this time from a Jr/Sr High. Big change from my last interview. I went into this one doing the same amount of research as I did before. School newsletter, asking around and anything else I could Google about the school. This school was a smaller school (only a few hundred students) and had a very small staff.

I went and did the interview then they offered a tour around where my classrooms would be. I was thrilled and quite surprised that they even suggested that. I supposed that would have indicated that I had made a short list of some sort. The admin assistant took me around and we bonded over the fact that she had only been there for the last few months and was just getting to know the place herself. When we got back to the office they were still talking and I was just told to wait. I have to say that those 3-6 minutes of waiting were just brutal. When the principal came out they wanted to see me again and ask a few more questions.

These questions were BRUTAL. While I had thought that the questions asked previously were quite tough, these really pushed my knowledge of my own teaching style, management and personal characteristics. They asked about specific situations about students and school policy. One I found quite hilarious (afterwards) was they kept saying a teacher was “sick” and therefore late for school and I was covering for them for up to 2 weeks. They seemed pleased with my answers and informed me that I would find out if I had the job later that day. Lo and behold I got a phone call at 4:15pm asking me if I would like to “rest my hatchet” at that school. I was thrilled and accepted.

As of September, I am teaching Band 7/8/9, Drama 7/8/9, Band 10/20/30, Drama 10/20/30 and Math 7. Expect a lot of Math resources to pop up in the next little while…

“Let’s Get Together… Ya Ya Ya!”

Oh the Parent Trap.

Let’s Work Together! This was found over at The Ed Buzz.

In this article the author suggests that public schools and charter schools work together. You don’t need to have a good knowledge of either system to get behind this very valid point. Here’s what I got from the article:

  • Charter school have 2 different ‘camps’. One that is super awesome and wants to educate kids, the other is a less awesome side that’s more focused on the business side of things.
  • Charter school teachers have no tenure/union, get paid less. They also may not have handicapped students in the classes (as the schools can not ‘accept’ those students)
  • Public school teachers are ‘protected’ by a union, and have a salary grid. They also have to follow the rules that govern the schools.

What would happen if we mixed the public system that protected the teachers and had a few good rules with the passion and edu-business side of the Charter system?