Smaller class sizes would allow teachers to really get to know their students

Smaller class sizes would allow teachers to really get to know their students
The board meeting room at the Newport-Mesa Unified School District. (File photo)

A school district should be a village. What we have now is a school district as a city, and a city that is in trouble.

At the last school board meeting, a high school teacher addressed the board in the most compelling way, talking about safety in her school.


This teacher talked about what she believes is the cause of gun violence in schools and what she thinks should be done. She tried to tell the board about her "case load" of 180 kids a day and their different personalities and range of problems: breaking up with a girlfriend, alcoholic parents, jobs, even hunger.

She said that it is virtually impossible to get to know them simply because of the numbers. She begged the board to look at her kids as real people.

I don't know the end of her story, and her final point because she was stopped by the board president after her allotted three minutes. This teacher asked for a minute or two to finish her statement Instead of the president of the board behaving like a human being, not to mention a public servant, she stopped her with what could only be described as a public scolding. The trustees should have listened. They all should have listened.

The teacher (your teacher) was directed to leave the podium by an armed guard. She tried to finish, but in the end said simply, "I'm sorry you don't care." You can watch the video here:

It's true that in this strange culture there needs to be a safe, short-term answer to the threat to our students, but if we were to be real, we would be talking about the long-term answer to saving our children.

I have talked about my six grandchildren before, who attend private school. It was a hard decision for these public-school-educated parents. In the end, it became about class size.

Their private schools do not have better technology. Their classrooms are not better, prettier or more interesting. Their teachers are not more educated or better prepared, nor do they have better equipment.

In fact, it may not be quite as good. What they have (and I will bet you have guessed this) are small classes: 18 and 19 students.

What those private school teachers have is the ability to really know their kids, to know which ones eat alone, which ones have parents going through something, which ones are struggling with gender identity, which ones are depressed, and which ones might be considering doing something terribly serious.

Not only do these schools have small classes, they also have a lot of caring and interested adults — counselors that counsel — that they can go to. Counselors/psychologists who know these kids' parents, actually go to their games, plays and dances without being asked by the administration.

These teachers are no different from our teachers. They care for their students, but not more than our teachers. The difference is seeing 90 kids a day as opposed to a "caseload" of 180 students.

Dream of a school district in which the classes are no larger than 25, that has plenty of caring adults that the kids can go to just to talk, that have teachers who are not stressed out of their minds; a school that functions as a small village, not as a dysfunctional city.

Retired teacher SANDY ASPER lives in Newport Beach.