The Big Class Dilemma

November 16, 2010 at 5:54 pm 21 comments

OK, maybe it’s not a dilemma.  I mean, I don’t think anyone is out there advocating for big classes.  I’m finally starting to feel a little bit of the strain of the big class.  My son is currently in 2nd grade (doing supposedly 3rd grade level work, at least by CPS standards.)  His class has 29 kids.  The teacher seem very good – conscientious, highly interested in working with the parents as needed to help the kids meet their potential, the kids like her (even my easily annoyed and highly critical grump-child.)  So I suspect she’s not one of those teachers who can’t handle a big classroom (like I would be.) 

However over the past month, there’ve been a few times when he doesn’t know how to do his homework.  When I try to help he claims that the key concept of the homework is something he has NEVER been taught.  Triple digit subtraction.  Predicates.  Claims he never heard of them.  Ever.  I *think* in my son’s mind he truly believe he’d never heard of these concepts before.  Which leave me to wonder, “what the heck is he doing when these concepts are being taught?” 

I know the real issue is with him daydreaming, talking, staring, zoning, thinking about Club Penguin, or whatever.  The challenge is how a teacher with 29 kids could ever ensure that everyone is getting the lesson, even the daydreamers.  She’s probably happy if she thinks that 2/3 of the kids are giving their full attention (as she should be.)  The helicopter parent in me thinks  should stay on top of the lessons to see what I should be re-teaching him at home.  The slacker parent in me figures I’ll wait until he messes up his homework and then we’ll cover what went wrong.  (Well, that’s the helicopter version of the slacker parent.)

I’m just having more moments of doubt this year, wondering whether a private school with smaller classes might be better for a kid who doesn’t always sit diligently with his eyes and brain focused on the teacher.   And all the references to worksheets in CPS lately.  I’m going through the moments of doubt that I knew I’d have.  I love our school and the teachers and being part of CPS, but sometimes I worry that I’m shortchanging my son because I like living in the city.  Oh CPS, why do you make me doubt you?

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Brilliant or Lame? Homework Helpers… Board Meeting Wednesday

21 Comments Add your own

  • 1. another parent  |  November 16, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    ask the teacher. she probably reads the blog anyway.

  • 2. cpsobsessed  |  November 16, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    Ha, I’ll ask her tomorrow at report card pickup (about the class, not about this blog.)
    I’m sure I can’t be the first parent of a 2nd grade boy who is lukewarm about school who wonders how to get them engaged, can I?
    Anyhow, if she’s reading — thank you for putting up with my child! He likes you a lot in his own weird way. 🙂

  • 3. Mayfair Dad  |  November 16, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    Back in olden days, there was this thing called “recess”, a designated time during the school day when little boys could run around and release pent-up squirellyness. The ancients thought this ritual release returned the child to a mindset for learning, what we now would refer to as “re-booting”

  • 4. mystified  |  November 16, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    I just don’t get it. First there was homework helpers and now class size. DUH.

    Shouldn’t the fact that there are huge changes that will impact ALL accelerated programs voted on tomorrow by CPS be in the headlights for at least a week — I’m being sarcastic but this is HUGE. Even if this is not a testing year for YOUR kid (it isn’t for mine) it will affect you in YOUR high school application. It WILL affect the quality of ALL accelerated programs. It WILL affect the quality of life in the City of Chicago because the only decent public high schools will not be as high quality.

    TOMORROW MORNING 10:30 AM 125 SOUTH CLARK the Board of Education will be voting on changes to the admissions procedures that will exclude HUNDREDS of high scoring students from Selective Enrollment High Schools (and all other test in schools including gifted, classical & academic centers). HUNDREDS. IT’S HUGE.

    The CPS’ own Blue Ribbon Panel observes that: “…increasing the tier percentage GREATLY increases the number of high scoring students who would not likely receive an offer to attend any SEHS (Selective Enrollment High School).”(p 9, BRC Final Report, emphasis added)

    I know that this was discussed on a blog several ones below with about 200 comments — but if you pick through them you will find that most deal with things like grading scale, track e schedules — HUNDREDS of students will be shut out. HUNDREDS. CPS knows that this is HUGE. That’s why they buried in an announcement with 12 other things. That’s why they waited until 1 week before the Board meeting (although the BRC report came out in September) to announce this change.
    You MUST show up at this meeting if you think this is important. WAKE UP.

  • 5. parent  |  November 16, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    how is 29 kids in a class a big deal? sr margaret mary had classes of 89 and the kids learned.

  • 6. cps Mom  |  November 16, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    @4 – we get the message. Your point has been made. Since track E and other issues arose out of the conversation, it seemed to be talked out. This has been talked about in many past posts and from many angles. My understanding is that grade scale was also part of the SE issue, not a side note.

    Since there are many big issues up for discussion at this all important meeting tomorrow there is also a possibility that the new SE policies will take a back seat???!! Just a thought. Yes – I agree it is really important for anyone looking to get their child in to SE now or in the future to make their voice known. I too fear that the rank seats are in danger of disappearing over time and that as the rules stand, they are not fair.

    In the meantime, no sense rehashing the same stuff until after tomorrows meeting. People want to comment on other issues that are important to them. CPS Obsessed – I like the variety, keeps me coming back and Mystified we haven’t lost site of the very important matters coming to a head tomorrow.

  • 7. mystified  |  November 16, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    So are you going to attend the meeting?

  • 8. momof4  |  November 16, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    Why is the Board holding its monthly meeting on a day when parents need to attend elementary schools for first quarter teacher conferences and report card pick up? I understand that report card pickup is not until noon, but a lot of us still have kids at home that need to be taken care instead of going to the board meeting. Wouldn’t it make more sense to hold these meetings on regular school days, to allow parents to attend without children in tow? And especially the November meeting. It will be the most important meeting of the year.

    And mystified, I totally agree with you. This is big. Whatever is decided tomorrow will serve as a huge indicator of how we view gifted education in the city of Chicago.

  • 9. cps Mom  |  November 16, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    I do like your style and passion. For that, I will go. I don’t like the fact that there really is no forum for discussion or input. Everything put together last minute with disregard for those affected. What time does it start and you know that I will have to say something so when is the sign-up?

  • 10. cps Mom  |  November 16, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    I see your info on time/place – thanks

  • 11. Hey Cpsobsessed  |  November 16, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I have a 3rd and 6th grade boy and sometimes they look at me with this blank stare when I ask “Did your teacher go over this?” “Were you paying attention?” The 6th grader who has recently become a non-slacker (thank you there is a God and I guess after years of being on his back it has paid off) can now tell me that “No the teacher DID NOT go over this!” Yikes–she sent it home for me to teach him I guess. I often wonder if I should pay for private school to get a smaller class size. My youger slacker is DRIVING ME BONKERS! I am not ready to go through the boy crap again! *sigh* I’m too old and don’t have the energy. I’m also the LSC chair at my youngest’s school and the time (along with my age and full time job AND having both in two different schools) is zapping what little energy have to fight the “slacker boy syndrome”!

  • 12. Mayfair Dad  |  November 16, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    @ 4 mystified:

    Love your passion but you do realize that once a CPS situation has reached this point – game over. The time for action was this past summer when the Blue Ribbon Committee and the open forum hearing officers should have been flooded with letters. Your old pal Mayfair Dad posted the fax number and asked equally obsessed parents to copy & paste their blog postings and fax them along to the BRC.

    The Board Meeting will be a show, nothing more. Changes implemented for one year, subject to further affirmative action tweaking next year. By all means exercise your rights as a citizen and speak up at the Board Meeting. At least let the bastards know how you really feel about it.

  • 13. teacher and parent of CPS student  |  November 16, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    Wow I would love to have under 30 in my CPS classes. Have four classes a day with sizes of 35, 33, 30 and 30. Then have the class of 35 back at end of the day for last period. Yes keeping all engaged is a challenge! Also none of our students tested in or have half the support at home as many of the posters on this site.

    Recess for all to “reboot” as another poster mentioned would be great. We all could use some movement and fresh air! It would make a huge difference.

    Seeing that many students a day in a departmental setting in the upper grades or having 30 plus in the younger grades planning for all subjects is just unacceptable.

    I spend endless hours every evening planning and grading (as many teachers do) to hopefully engage as many students as possible and to make sure providing enough feedback on their work.

    Even trying to maintain communication with that many parents is nearly impossible, wish everyone had a working phone or e-mail address.

    CPS needs to prioritize how they spend their money. People who can afford private school will enroll, some will go to suburbs and honestly many great teachers are also lost due to class size and various other obstacles inherent in such a large system.

  • 14. @#13  |  November 16, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    I have an email address and working telephone number and long for more feedback from the teachers. I will make my requests tomorrow but as you said…oldest is departmentalized with around 150 students per teacher so can they even have more communication with parents except for the poor behavior/academic students. Will I not get more communication because my child is an A/B student and well behaved. I’d like to move the B’s to A’s. Will the “specials” teachers takem,e seriously at the SE school? After all they have every student in the building…

  • 15. Dad  |  November 16, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    You could enroll in the private school, but chances are, your kid will be ahead of the class. So, he’ll get more attention, but, at least before 3rd grade, he might feel a bit unchallenged.

  • 16. teacher and parent of CPS student  |  November 17, 2010 at 10:48 am

    To #14 You might not get as much communication initiated by the teacher as you stated much energy is spent on trying to work with families so they can support their struggling students. However as a parent if you e-mail, or call the teacher and express your concerns it is likely you can establish and maintain good communication.

    As a parent of a CPS student we felt the need to do that in the past and we were successful. Do you use the parent portal? It is just another way to keep up on what is going on in school. Also does the school have website with assignments posted. So many ways to communicate now.

    Specials at SE schools, some may see all the students and some may only see half depends on how many positions the school has. Specials vary greatly school to school (all schools). Have seen 2-3 language teachers at a school, while only 1 at another larger school, and schools without any language. Some schools have 2 gym teachers, 2 librarians while many only have 1. You just have to look into what is offered at the school, go observe, and ask lots of questions to make sure it is the right fit for your child.

  • 17. @Mayfair Dad  |  November 17, 2010 at 10:53 am

    You are absolutely correct, once something reaches the Board meetings it is usually a done deal! Anyone out there wonder why we do not have an elected school board? Things would probably be much different with all appointed members.

  • 18. cps Mom  |  November 17, 2010 at 10:53 am

    With regard to the homework learning sessions at home.

    We had an abundance of homework which was impossible for a teacher to grade and monitor the student. I discovered that much of class time was spent going over homework and in some cases even graded by other students. This resulted in a vicious cycle of copious amounts of homework consuming the evenings and the school day.

    Now that my son is in high school, the homework is all about preparing for class. The right answer is not required for the grade but there is a penalty if the homework is not done. Class time is spent 100% on learning. What a difference. Homework is manageable and relevant. BTW my son is the classic daydreamer and is now fully engrossed in the class discussion.

  • 19. @Mayfair Dad  |  November 17, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Oops sorry above post correction

    Things would be different if didn’t have all appointed board members.

  • 20. LR  |  November 24, 2010 at 10:57 am

    I have to say, now that we are part of a very large CPS, I kind of miss the warm fuzzies that I got back at our private school. But, I think that’s really more about me than my daughter. She seems oblivious.

    I don’t know that you would find any difference with your son in a private school or suburban school with smaller classes. I only say this because I still have friends at our old private school and, in some cases, they have the same problems. Their kids come home seemingly clueless about their homework, or whatever it is that they are supposed to have learned/discussed/etc. The fact that you take the time to help him out is in part what makes a school a good school. And believe me, my friends at our old private school, are having to “play teacher” just like you are.

  • 21. CP  |  November 28, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    I’m new to CPS, and am just now figuring out the whole school process. From an outsider’s standpoint, though, it’s all pretty depressing: CPS seems to have such a focus on all the wrong things. Worksheets, letter grades, homework as barometer of a successful education, tests… Instilling independence of thought, critical thinking skills, and a real love of learning seems to come down very low on the list. I don’t like the big class sizes, either, although could go along with that if the kids weren’t all expected to be learning the same thing at the same time (perhaps I’m wrong on that, but that seems to be the case). I believe in public schools, and think that fleeing them (or moving elsewhere) isn’t the answer, but the whole situation makes me sick. Some of these issues seem to be larger American trends these days, though, so I don’t know how possible it is to fully escape them. I feel more radical by the day, and more and more frustrated with CPS. Some things might be out of their control due to fiscal realities, but they can’t blame everything on that. We’re still living in the city and will give it a shot, but it’s still disappointing to feel that I’m stuck in a position where I want to fully support the public school system, yet don’t support much of what the district is doing, and certainly don’t feel like parents (or potential parents) are being treated as potential allies in a shared mission to ensure that all kids in Chicago have access to a good education.

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