I felt good coming into this year. I was teaching the same three classes I taught last semester, and I learned a ton from last semester. I had a new behavior plan I was ready to use. My long range plans were all finished last semester. I had begun developing individual lesson plans. My class sizes were smaller. I was better prepared. Even the grass was greener.
I said the class sizes were smaller, but one of them was much smaller. When I left last semester, I had five students enrolled in my third period class. For a high school class of students in non-diploma classes, I prefer 5-10 students. Any less and it seems too quiet. Any more and it gets to be too much to handle. Of my original five, I slowly began losing students, each for a different reason.
By the time school started, it was me and one student. Just the two of us in class together. Besides the fact that it was weird teaching in a one-on-one setting for an hour and a half, I had a bigger problem. This class was the one that normally operates the smoothie and coffee shop at my school. You can read some of my past posts about the smoothie shop, but basically, we make and sell drinks to students during three lunch periods to practice job skills and behaviors. As you can probably guess, one student plus me is not enough to run the whole smoothie and coffee operation.
Another problem was that our resource classes (for students pursuing a regular diploma) were grossly overpopulated. Rooms were so full the teacher could barely move; much less have room to teach. You can probably see where this is going. A week into the new semester, I began changing student class schedules, checking with case managers to approve changes and teaching study skills to relieve some of the burden of the large class sizes.
I’m conflicted about how I feel about this change. The coffee and smoothie shop was a ton of work. I will not miss the mountains of dirty dishes, the haunting smell of coffee trailing me anywhere I went or the trash bags full of dirty rags and towels to be washed. However, I really enjoyed the shop and had fun in that atmosphere with the students. I wish we could find another way to get students on campus the experiences to practice with real-work settings. What do your schools do to give students work experience and skills?
For the rest of the semester, look for more posts about helping students through regular education classes.