Professional Development Letter to the Editor

For Best Results, Teachers Need Fewer Students

September 25, 2012 1 min read
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To the Editor:

I am sad that someone as caring and insightful as Jordan Kohanim left teaching (“Why I Left Teaching,”, Aug. 22, 2012). Teaching is all about caring and human interaction. It is the very effective teacher and administrator who connects with students and advocates for them.

Yet I understand why Ms. Kohanim left teaching after seven years. She seems to have dedicated herself 100 percent to the students who needed her most: the “struggling students.” As she tried to garner support for these students and was denied support for what she says were the “neediest students,” she saw an abuse of power from those parents who were able to advocate for their students and manipulate the system to offer advantages to their children who were not in dire need.

How long can someone work diligently and ethically, serving those who do not have a voice, watching others who are financially secure take advantage of the system, especially when one has his or her own personal challenges to deal with?

How long can a teacher continue to connect with each and every student to build a relationship of care and concern when the teacher has 159 students and 159 essays to grade? Theodore R. Sizer, in his 1992 book Horace’s School: Redesigning the American High School, suggested that teachers should have no more than 80 students. Jordan Kohanim is not alone. I teach graduate students, most of whom are teachers, and they claim their teaching loads range from 120 to 160 students.

We need to diminish the teacher-student ratio to allow teachers to do their jobs: build relationships with their students and, in so doing, affect student achievement.

Phyllis Gimbel
Associate Professor,
Educational Leadership
Bridgewater State University
Bridgewater, Mass.

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A version of this article appeared in the September 26, 2012 edition of Education Week as For Best Results, Teachers Need Fewer Students


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