Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I'm feeling a bit better, and didn't rush off home to bed after my last exam today. Instead, I enjoyed a nice long grading/lunch with colleagues, where we talked about some perks we wish our job had. Now, in general, I think I get to teach in a pretty great place. The kids are great, and I have a lot of flexibility and can be creative with my curriculum and lesson plans. Plus, I work in a collegial and collaborative department that challenges and invigorates me.

However, all of us in our department are burdened with a very heavy student load; most of us are in the area of 160 students, spread across five classes. It makes feedback and grading very difficult to conduct in an efficient manner. We also have a dearth of resources and technology.

I haven't taught in enough places to know if this is the norm. When I do get together with other teachers, such as this December's IB Training, they hear my student load and are amazed; however, I know some teachers teach that many students.

So, on Friday, our principal will be meeting with us about concerns. He does it a few times a year, and one of my colleagues is preparing some data about class sizes and class loads. It's the same sort of stuff he's heard before, and I'm sure he doesn't have that much control over it. But, I was trying to think today, how could our situation be better? One obvious way is to hire 1-2 more teachers for our department. Just cutting everyone's student load down to around 130-140 would be pretty darn helpful.

But, then, I'm also wondering about electives, as we have hardly any electives in the English Department. Our department offers Creative Writing, Journalism, and Speech. That's it. One guy teaches all of the sections of the former two, and one guy teaches the latter - every year. Now, I have no interest in teaching any of these courses, but the thought of being able to teach a course with a lighter paper load - and maybe a course I'm really, really intrigued by - is something that I'd love the opportunity to do. I would be happy to teach three preps in order for it to happen. If I got to, say, teach 3 classes of 9th grade, 1 class of 11th grade, and 1 elective, that would be ideal. That way, on the day my 9th graders have an essay due, it's only 90 at once, and I get a class whose paper load is a lot less than a core class.

What would my elective be? I've heard of some schools who let teachers develop electives to teach. Shakespeare? I would love it. The Short Story? How cool. Film Appreciation? I could put my Specialization in Film Study to use. Modern Literature? That would be awesome.

So that's my idea. It's not any more practical than just hiring new teachers (those same number of core classes would still have to be taught), but it would sure make me happy.

By the way, I had a lesson plan published on the Folger Website today. I'm not going to say which one is mine, but it wouldn't take a detective to figure it out. That's pretty cool.


Meanwhile, I keep dancing said...

Congrats on the lesson plan, Baltimore! I hate to say it, but I know I had at least 150 the last time I taught on a 7 period day. I have 100 now on the block schedule, but I have to switch classes every quarter...

Dana Huff said...

Congratulations on the Folger plan! Great news! I won't tell you how many students I have. It will make you mad.