-By Jonathan Kirsch, 20 years old from Bedford, NH serving on the Parker-Varney Team co-sponsored by Dartmouth-Hitchcock and The TJX Companies, Inc.
Parker-Varney has been exceedingly busy as of late. Having 32 kids in one classroom and feeling like at all times there’s someone telling on someone else, someone dropping markers on the floor, and someone asking to go to the bathroom, makes for long and demanding days. However, after working with 32 students all this time (quite successfully, I might add), the two fifth grade teachers at Parker-Varney received news at the start of January that a third fifth grade teacher would be hired by the end of the month.
By Monday, February 4, the new teacher had been hired, and it was time to tell the fifth grade students about the situation. It certainly wasn’t an easy conversation to have, because over the last five months, our class of 32 had become a forest with its roots bound together, each one of us connected to each other. Certainly not everyone was best friends with each other, but we were all fond of each other as a class, and our teacher knew she had to approach the situation delicately.
No matter how tender her words, however, the students didn’t respond very positively to the news. Every one of the students that were transitioning to the new classroom had tears rolling down their cheeks, as did half of those staying in our room. It was heartbreaking to see so many of them moved to tears all at once, and I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t really say anything. I just sat there, bleary-eyed, as the gravity of the situation set in. Even though those who left are an eight second walk down the hall, I can’t help feeling like part of me was taken away.
Still, in many ways, this is a very good thing. With only 24 students in our class now, we can focus our attention and better tailor our service to each student’s individual needs. It’s one thing to talk about the influence of class size on learning, but it’s another thing entirely to witness the difference between the two first-hand. Even after only a few days with my new class, it’s clear that the students will be learning a lot more in the months ahead.
I spoke with our new principal about the transition, and she lauded it for being a positive step forward. “I’m excited to have another experienced teacher in fifth grade,” she said. “Smaller class size is crucial to prepare students for middle school. There were a dangerous number of students in the rooms, and students were missing out on a lot of great opportunities because some activities just can’t be done with so many kids at once.” I can’t help but agree.
This is an exciting opportunity for us to start anew. It’s refreshing to have so few students in class, and even though I’ll miss the ones who left, I’ll still get to hear their jokes at recess. And besides, absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? My class as it was will always be a team, and on our last day together, right at the end of the day, we gathered round in an unforgettable huddle, and promised to tackle tomorrow with a smile.
It’s been quite a saga so far, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. Monday was the toughest day so far. I’m sure there will be more tough days to come. But regardless of what lies ahead, at least I know we’re all going to face it together.