Roman Shtrakhman, a teacher of Advanced Placement history and International Baccalaureate classes in Florida, sent the following letter to members of the Broward County school board, the superintendent, and journalists across the state. Can a high school teacher be as effective teaching six classes as five. This teacher says no.
Dear colleagues, it has come to my attention that the School Board of Broward County and Superintendent Runcie are developing a Task Force to address High School teacher scheduling issues, with an emphasis on the 6th class they have all been made to teach. Please allow me to share my observations.
We all understand that this decision is essentially is a funding issue. When the voters of Florida overwhelmingly passed a Constitutional Amendment in 2002 to keep class sizes low they did not anticipate that the Legislature would refuse to fund it, thereby negating its very purpose. And they certainly didn’t expect that the State would then have the gall to fine Districts for not having the money to follow it.
I fear, however, that what was initially conceived as a temporary budgetary measure might very well become permanent. Laws have a habit of doing just that. This would be very problematic. For those of us who approach our classes with academic enthusiasm, demanding intellectual and philosophical interaction, asking us to do this 6 times a day is, I’m afraid, unworkable. You see, lowering class time from 55 minutes to 50 while adding an additional class is not an equal distribution of responsibility. The 5 minutes are essentially negligible. After all, each incoming class deserves a new introduction, a new explanation, and all the energy the teacher can muster. It is, as we all know, what the students deserve. But throwing on a 6th class adds a very serious weight to the situation, and turns the school day into an assembly line of sorts. Please believe me that there is a huge difference between 5 and 6 classes per day. It is, in fact, the difference between quality and quantity in an academic sense.
I teach several Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes every year. That means that I have between 75-100 students that are taking college level classes. They are preparing to take very difficult tests that will give them college credit and save them money in college costs. I take my AP and IB classes very seriously.
These students have a right to the very best I have to give them. They deserve efficient lectures, lively in-class discussions, and a meticulous approach to the subject matter. Yet asking me to do this for now a 6th time every day dilutes the situation. I am not a machine, after all. What will wind up happening is that mediocre teachers will simply start handing out worksheets, and very good teachers will work themselves to death because they don’t know any other way of teaching but to give it their all.
This situation should certainly be addressed and if at all possible, reversed. Again, please believe me when I tell you that there is a huge difference between teaching 5 and 6 classes per day. It is, in point of emphasis, the difference between a comprehensive and holistic approach to academia, and simply putting a body in front of the kids. Some schools are even asking teachers to teach a 7th. This cannot happen. Although funding issues are of great concern, we must do everything in our power to maintain scholastic legitimacy. This country cannot afford to have an uneducated population. We have seen that this too has consequences.
National Board Certified
and International Baccalaureate
Plantation High School