Crowding the Aisles
Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College
Crowding the Aisles
Becki Lynn Webber
Most people in today's society obtain an education. The formal transfer of information to person is done in the school system. However, today's educational system is extremely overcrowded and needs to be cleared of that overload so that people can acquire the best education possible.
Teachers typically have anywhere from 35 to 45 students in a class. Anyone who walks into a classroom can see that is too many students. In my high school Economics class, two students were left without desks because, in the words of my teacher, "There are simply too many kids and not enough room." In grades 7 through 12, class periods are, at the most, only one hour long. This means that in an hour, the teacher must take roll, cover the entire pre-selected curriculum, answer questions, and have time to assign and discuss that night's homework. In an ideal situation this could work quite well, but in the real world, most teachers have a hard time accomplishing this task. While I was in high school, for example, most of my teachers ran out of time and often yelled the homework assignment to us as we were walking out the door. It would be hard for any teacher to answer questions from 40 students and still have time to teach a satisfactory lesson. One of my friend's teachers told the class that only three questions per day would be answered in order to allow more time for lectures. This can't possibly be helping students.
Overcrowding is not a recent problem; it has been a problem for at least the past 12 years. When I was in the first grade, my mother enrolled me in Washington Elementary School. Within the first two weeks, my teacher announced that part of the school would have to be transferred across town to Garfield Elementary School. This was because Washington Elementary was overcrowded and could not handle the incoming students. When I found out I was going to be transferred, I was devastated. I didn't understand why I had to go to another school and start over again when my sister, who was in the second grade, got to stay at Washington. At the end of the year I was allowed to return to Washington Elementary, but only because Garfield Elementary was being destroyed. This shipping of students is still going on today, and it is still due to overcrowding. School campuses are simply having a hard time dealing with the amount of students they are being forced to hold. Heritage Elementary School is so overcrowded on their campus that they have placed portables on the campus of Needham School. The students placed in these classes have to either be bussed over from Heritage or their parents have to drive farther out of the way to drop their children off. This shuffling around of students cannot be good because it takes them away from the familiar surrounding of a school they've gotten to know and friends they have already made.
The student-teacher ratios in today's schools need to be improved. If class sizes were lowered, the teacher would have more time to help the students. I knew a girl my freshman year in high school who could barely read. Maybe if her elementary school classes had not been so crowded, the teacher could have spent more time with her and prevented the problem. Being able to work closer with the student allows the teacher to recognize the individual needs of each person. When I was in third grade I could not read, write, or do arithmetic. During a parent-teacher conference, my mother suggested that the teacher hold me back. The teacher replied, "We simply can't do that; she's too bright." No teacher during these first three years of my formal education could take the time to help me or any others who were falling behind. They were simply too busy. My mother responded by taking me out of public school and teaching me herself through Independent Study. This one-on-one atmosphere gave me the opportunity to develop the academic skills I would need to successfully finish school. By lowering class sizes, we can give this opportunity to every student.
Lowering the student-teacher ratios has been attempted in certain classes. When I was a freshman at Lodi High School, my English class only had 20 students in it. This was nice for the class because both students and teacher were able to get to know each other better. At the time, I was told that all freshman English classes at Lodi High were being reduced in size. This created a better learning environment because the teacher was able to spend more one-on-one time with the students who needed it. No one had an excuse to fail. Measures have been taken to lower the class size for freshman English classes, but we should still strive to lower class sizes for every grade, in every subject. Another class I attended in high school also had around 20 students, and that was my French 3-4 class. The only reason that this class size was small was that not many students take French. However, I can say that the students in that class were able to learn the language more accurately because the class size was smaller and the teacher could spend more time with each student. Overcrowded classrooms inhibit children's ability to learn; a lower student-teacher ratio makes it easier for the student to learn the material of the class.
The overload of students in the classroom contributes to the time required to complete in-class assignments in classes that have a lot of "hands-on" learning, such as labs. There were around 40 students in my Introduction to Photography class in high school. The teacher would give us an assignment on Monday and it would be due that Friday. The only problem with this was that with so many students in the class not everyone would be able to develop their film and print their pictures in one week. There were too many kids and not enough equipment. Getting more equipment would not have been practical since no more equipment would have fit inside the classroom. If the class size had been smaller, we would not have had this problem, and everyone would have been able to get the assignment done. This same scenario happens in science classes when it comes to their labs. In my biology and chemistry classes, labs would constantly take longer than the teacher anticipated because of the vast amount of students in the class who had questions or problems that the teacher needed to address. Teachers would then get behind in their lesson plans. To make up for this lost time, teachers would rush through lectures or, in some cases, rush through future labs, just to get back on schedule. This cannot be good for students. Lowering the class sizes would help students in these types of classes finish their assignments in a more timely manner, and the teachers would not have to cut corners to keep on schedule.
The obvious answer to this problem is that we should build new schools that are bigger to accommodate the mass of students. By building these schools, we would be able to spread out the population of students and serve more students as the general population rises. This would lower the student teacher ratio and allow for better learning in the classroom. Lodi High School, as we know it today, was obviously not built to accommodate the numbers of students that it is being forced to hold. Anyone who walks around the school and goes into a classroom can see this. If they had built a bigger building, then we might not have such a big problem with overcrowding. If the needed land could not be acquired, then the space of the school might have been increased by creating a two-story building. Also, new schools should be built for the new housing developments. As the new houses in Lodi have been built, not one new school has been planned for. Every child, in every new house, is being put into an already overcrowded school. This cannot be helping the quality of our students' education.
We need to fix the overcrowding of our educational system for the sake of our youth. Students need to be able to learn in an environment that suits them best, not the environment we have for them today. If the future of our country is to lie in the hands of our students, then we need to feel secure that those individuals are competent enough to handle the job we set before them, and this won't be accomplished in an overcrowded classroom.