By Noa Pope
School is the first step into the real world, the first extended time away from home, the first experience without the comfort of parents. School is the place where teens learn who they are and find their place in society; it is where they learn the majority of lessons needed to live their life away from home. Parents trust that their teen is getting the care, protection, and attention he or she needs to thrive and have the best possible experience in school. However, many teens, including myself, have found themselves feeling neglected and almost invisible to the people who are supposed to be helping them grow and thrive in their new environment. For the most part, this neglect does not come from poor teachers. In fact, I found that despite the invisibility I felt, my previous high school teachers worked very hard and were overall some of the best teachers I have ever had. This shows that the neglect comes from an overpopulation of schools and classrooms that leads to teachers being incapable of providing sufficient attention to each individual student. Counties with high schools with thousands of students in one school, such as Williamson County, need to decrease class sizes in schools to allow better student-teacher relationships that will lead to a better education and ultimately a better life after graduation.
Independence High School, a Williamson County school consisting of 1413 students, is one example of a Williamson County School (“School Facts & Figures”). Like myself, many of these students are quiet and shy. Without the appropriate attention, these introverted teens struggle to learn how to be confident, ask questions, or reach out for help. Being at a school with over 1000 students and up to 35 students per classroom made me feel overwhelmed and too nervous to even raise my hand in class. I felt as if my teachers did not know my personal learning needs and did not give me the attention I needed to find confidence in myself. This unintentional neglect can lead to dropping grades and poor self esteem that follows students into their adult lives. Often times “[w]hen a child has low self-esteem they tend to avoid situations where they think there’s risk of failure, embarrassment or making mistakes. These can involve school work, making friends, and trying new activities” (“Self-Esteem and Teenagers”). Unattended teens struggling with low self-esteem can end up feeling anxious and angry, have a negative view of their bodies, and may even turn to “alcohol and drugs to feel better about themselves” (“Self-Esteem and Teenagers”).
The shy students are not the only ones who feel the effects of overpopulated classrooms; students suffering from attention disorders, such as ADHD, or even students that simply have a hard time staying motivated and on task in class are also affected. With too big of a class teachers are unable to control all of the students at once, meaning those who struggle to stay focused have noone to bring their attention back to their schoolwork. It has been found that “[s]tudents behave better and pay more attention in smaller groups” because it is more difficult for students to get off topic and get distracted, when the instructor has less students to handle (Higgins).
Surprisingly, it can also be the gifted, intelligent students who do not get sufficient teacher attention. Teachers feel as if they do not need to dedicate as much time to the gifted because they will do great in school regardless. What teachers do not realize is “that those who [are not] challenged in school [are] less likely to live up to the potential indicated by their test scores,” and “under-stimulated gifted students quickly become bored and frustrated” (Crawford). Because gifted students have unique learning needs, it is common for students to have lower grades than what they could potentially have when teachers are unable to meet these needs.
Class sizes need to be decreased to allow teachers more time to give each individual student personal attention. Smaller classes will allow students the attention they need to excel in school, both with their academic studies and their ability to empathize with others and find success after high school.
Crawford, Amy. “The Poor Neglected Gifted Child – The Boston Globe.” BostonGlobe.com, 16
www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2014/03/15/the-poor-neglected-gifted-child/rJpv8G4oeawWBBvXVtZyFM/story.html. Accessed 25 Sep. 2017.
Higgins, John. “Does Class Size Matter? Research Reveals Surprises.” The Seattle Times, The
Seattle Times Company, 28 Oct. 2014,
www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/education/does-class-size-matter-research-reveals-surprises/. Accessed 25 Sep. 2017.
“School Facts & Figures – High Schools.” Williamson County Schools,
www.wcs.edu/schools/school-facts-high-schools/. Accessed 25 Sep. 2017.
“Self-Esteem and Teenagers.” Reachout.com,
Accessed 25 Sep. 2017.
Do you think smaller class sizes are an effective way to improve education? Why or why not?