Crowded classes prevent bonds

I don’t know how to do this job any other way.

Everyone told me my first year of teaching would be the hardest.

Yet, I am finding the second year far more frustrating.

Last year, I would spend 12 hours a day at school during the week, sneak into the building on Saturdays, and lesson plan through my Sundays.

I was so focused with simply surviving my first year and “what I was going to teach tomorrow” that I remained oblivious to the reality of Georgia’s budget crisis in education.

Now that the velocity of teaching has somewhat slowed, I am beginning to realize the true crisis of underfunding education in Georgia.

Budget shortfalls have increased the teacher-to-student ratio in my classroom.

Rather than averaging 25 students a class last year, my rosters swelled to 32 this past August.

In my year and a half of teaching, I realized my most effective means of motivating students is building meaningful relationships.

When students realize that you are personally invested in not only their academic success but also their humanity, they will work hard for you and do anything you ask.

Building my “teacher bag of tricks,” taking the time to truly care is the most effective tool that I have.

As class size continues to increase, I worry about my ability to meaningfully connect with every student who walks though my door.

Perhaps the most disheartening reality of Georgia’s budget shortfall was the teacher furlough days at the beginning of the school year (and the more-than-likely possibility of more to come.)

Teachers understand that a 40-hour work week is nowhere near a reality.

We fully realize there is no overtime pay for all the additional lesson planning, grading, meetings, parent conferences, and the extracurricular activities we sponsor.

All of this extra effort is well compensated when my students fully realize the connections between their learning and the realities of the world around them.

So many of us dedicate every waking hour to our students — and this is why slashing teacher pay for the regular, bell-to-bell school day was so demoralizing.

At what point is Georgia taking advantage of its dedicated and professional teacher workforce?

How many excellent teachers are leaving the field?

How many potential teachers are choosing other careers where the can earn more money and work less hours?

As Georgia begins the new legislative session this month, I strongly urge our lawmakers to realize the teacher in the classroom is the only thing insulating Georgia’s children from the budget crisis in education.

I wonder how many people realize that schools like the one where I teach were full of teachers who showed up for work—and stayed late—on the furlough days.

Such schools are filled with professionals who understand that if the Georgia Legislature is not going to take the side of our students, then it is up to us.

Personally, continuing to endure is a decision I have made because all of the surprisingly humbling yet immensely rewarding benefits of the profession I love.

I don’t know how to do this job any other way.

Joel Kadish teaches American government, world geography, economics and international affairs at Riverwood International Charter School in Sandy Springs where he is also faculty sponsor of the Student Government Association.