Smaller classes make sense, and not just because of COVID-19
Students have a moral and legal democratic right to receive a good education
Schooling is essential for the continued socioemotional and cognitive development of elementary students.
But I shudder at what they may actually experience in some older schools with aging classrooms and bathrooms, poor air ventilation, and unsatisfactory facilities. This is typical in lower-income neighbourhoods. Being poor does not guarantee equal rights and services. Limited school funding inevitably places severe constraints on what teachers try to achieve.
We must focus our attention on the needs of students, primarily physical, social, emotional and cognitive. The question must always be asked: does this or that contribute to meeting student needs for safety, academic development, sense of inclusion in the classroom community, sense of being treated with respect and being cared for, and help in the learning process (being aware of what is to be learnt and help how to do it).
There seems to be little government understanding how classroom size is a major factor, among others, in ensuring effective teaching and student achievement. The larger the class size the greater the difficulty of maximizing the overall or particular learning aimed at. This is magnified where students do not speak English or come from disadvantaged and multi-ethnic neighbourhoods, and have had socialization experiences from parents and peers inconsistent with the values of the school.
Example: let the length of the period be 30 minutes.
Assume the number of students is 25. Then, the amount of time for any student is mathematically 30/25, or 1.2 minutes.
Students also have individual learning styles and may have learning deficits of one kind or another. This means more in-class teacher assistance for some or many students, typically those from low-income families or who do not speak English well.
The result is less time available for other students who, in effect, are being shortchanged, despite the teacher’s multitasking efforts to teach effectively.
Solution: smaller class sizes in the province for our harried teachers and deserving students. Students have a moral and legal democratic right to a good education. Their parents pay taxes for this outcome.
Given the problems COVID-19 will cause elementary students and their teachers, it would help if students brought their own water bottles and a bottle of hand sanitizer.
The province should prepare a page of sound medical advice for parents on how to stay safe in this pandemic as well as how to help their children with any emotional problems. Emphasis on virtual learning assumes, of course, student ownership of a computer. Where none exists the province might consider purchasing an Apple ipad for such students.
It would also help if classrooms could have a quietly running portable fan to increase the circulation of air for the students and teachers, and, of course, a bottle of hand sanitizer available for use by any student. There are recipes on the internet by major hospitals on how to make sanitizing liquid cheaply. The province could get involved in production and distribution.
Limited school funding inevitably places severe constraints on what teachers try to achieve