This year has been a wild ride to say the least. My son was born in July, so I went into the school year getting 4 hours of sleep a night on a good night. Our 8th grade team leader had a family emergency spring up early on, and I stepped in and took the role, adding a slew of responsibilities to an already full plate. Each night I’d come home to a stressed out, overworked mama of a newborn and a two year old, which meant lesson plans and any other thrilling teacher duties would be saved until the evening time after the joys of dinner, bath-time, and coaxing/forcing the two little ones to “GO TO SLEEP!!” And with a 7:00am start time at our school, I’m up by 5am to start all over again.
Oh yea. I was the only 8th grade Math teacher at our school of 240 eighth graders. From August to December, half of those 240 suffered through 3 long-term subs/teachers all who ended up fleeing from our hormone-crazy pre-teens. The stories that came out of that classroom included obscene cursing at the teacher, kids throwing chairs and desks, and inappropriate demonstrations of affection between the aforementioned hormone-crazy pre-teens. After the third teacher was politely asked to leave our school for being completely ineffective at maintaining any sense of control in the classroom, my wife quietly urged me to just take the entire 8th grade on. And that’s what I did.
From January to May, along with my honors Algebra and intervention reading classes, I taught 2 Math classes of 50 students each and 2 Math classes of 70 students each.
Every day was an adventure. A bottle of Stress Away in my pocket became as important as my morning cup of coffee. My old styles of classroom management, engagements activities, grading, and differentiation would not suffice. And I promised my wife that I would not get lost in my work and continue giving the family the same amount of myself as previously. But we made it work. I moved my classroom into the multipurpose room and had 14 tables set up with 5 seats each. I daily refined my practices and found ways to be more efficient. It began working out so well that my district coach started bringing others from the district into my classroom to see how smoothly things went. One coach told me that despite there being 70 kids in the room, it feels like there’s only 30. My formal evaluation scores remained high. Kids continued to love coming to my class. And my kids’ test scores remained at the top end of the district.
The things that I learned through this endeavor are extensive. The purpose of this blog is to share some of the primary tools and strategies that I used to effectively teach such large classes. I hope that you will find great value in these techniques and that they will make the significant job of teaching all the more joy-filled and meaningful for you and for your students!