Overcrowding at schools is almost a given in most areas of the country. Even though the school you work for might publish a fairly good teacher-to-student ratio, this number is usually inaccurate in terms of what really happens in the classrooms around campus.
There are many teachers who have very small or no classes. For example, there might be a special education co-teacher who is in classes all day long with another teacher. This counts as two teachers in the room and therefore reduces the overall number of students for each teacher in the school.
Even worse, some schools count people who would not traditionally be thought of as teachers. For example, if a guidance counselor also has a few student aides, the counselor might be counted as a teacher for the purposes of the ratio. This is not to say that counselors are not teaching their student aides important skills. However, it does give an inaccurate picture of school loads.
By counting non-traditional teachers with few students in their classes in a student-to-teacher ratio, districts may feel justified in hiring fewer classroom teachers. The ratio does not reflect reality, however. What is listed as a 27:1 ratio might actually be 33:1. Therefore, little relief is provided for overcrowded classes.
If you are faced with 35 or 40 kids in a class, you will find that many problems are magnified by overcrowding. What would be minor discipline issues in smaller classrooms can quickly escalate in crowded classes.
More than in any other situation, you need to have a firm hand when it comes to discipline in an overcrowded classroom. You cannot allow this type of class to get out of control, because getting them back on task can be nearly impossible. Make sure that you strictly follow your discipline plan as you teach each day.
Changes to Lessons
Large classes make interesting assignments like debates and simulations more challenging. Therefore, think about the logistics of an activity before you put it in your lesson plan. Place careful limits on each of the types of activities you attempt.
Further, you will want to make clear rules concerning class discussions. Many teachers become lax when it comes to making students raise their hands to make comments. However, with a large group, it is imperative that you have students raise their hands to be recognized simply to keep order.
Finally, realize that you have to grade whatever you assign. The difference between grading 20 and 40 essays can be huge. This does not mean that you should shirk your teaching duties to lessen your workload. However, it does mean that you should try to avoid giving two grading-intensive assignments right after each other. Plan to give yourself a break every once in a while.
Not Enough Desks
Overcrowded classrooms lead to a shortage of desks for students. As previously discussed, you should not make students feel uncomfortable for being in your classroom. Realize that the desk situation is a temporary one. For one thing, classes are often unbalanced during the first week or two of school, so you may lose some of the students to another class. Further, you may find that the teachers around you have smaller classes than you do, in which case they'll give you some of their desks.
If a couple of days of the school year have passed and students are still sitting on the floor of your classroom, talk with your administrator. Remember, these kids will tell their parents, who will probably call and complain to the school about the situation. Even though you did not cause the situation, you might find that the parents blame you. Therefore, be proactive and make sure that the office knows of your predicament. They will work out a solution.