Monday, August 16, 2010

Double Dose- Need Tips!

I apologize in advance for how long this is but I need to explain and I need help!

So last Monday was the first week at school for students... Wednesday morning, I get my class schedule and see that there are two teachers' names in one class slot.  I kept looking at it thinking that surely I must not be understanding it correctly.  I started to ask another teacher and then saw my principal.  I asked him about it and he said that since we had to add another Kindergarten class this year due to a large enrollment (now 7 classes of 18 students,) the only way to fit them all in the schedule was to send two Kindergarten classes to art at once, 36 students!  My jaw literally dropped for like the second time in my life.  It took me a minute to process and then I asked where I was supposed to put them!  (I currently have room for 24 students.)  After talking with my principal and both of us trying to come up with other solutions, he said we could go to the cafeteria and he would get someone to help me.  I talked to him today and one of the Paras is going to help with that section.  I said that was certainly better than 36 five year olds in my classroom with just me, but I am still really stressed out about it!

I just feel bad, like those students won't get the same experience as the others.  For example, I use my classroom projector ALL THE TIME to teach the art history inspiring some of the projects that I don't have posters for.  Also, it'll be back to buckets of water when we paint since the closest sink will be in the back of the kitchen.  I know we always have to do the best we can with what we have, and I'm sure going to do my best!  I bought a child's easel that was on clearance last December and I need to try to find that since I won't have a chalkboard and I'm not really sure how I'm going to demonstrate for that many students.  Maybe I need to come up with some sort of age appropriate beginning of class activity and then demonstrate at each table?  I guess I'm just feeling overwhelmed since I'm only starting my second year of teaching and I was wondering if anybody out there has had a similar situation?  Or if anybody just has some ideas for me!  If you have any suggestions, PLEASE comment and I will be eternally thankful!


  1. YIKES. I've been teaching long enough to say NO and still have my job security, but you have not. So, in the words of Tim Gunn on Project Runway, you have to "make it work". But how? I usually keep things pretty simple with kindergarten, but I worry that they will carry it on into the upper grades. You need some assurance that they will not. And seriously, remember with the kinders, simple is best, and they love routines, so plan a routine that will work for you. They will not know what they are missing, because they probably have had limited, if any, art instruction before.

    Is your projector on a rolling cart, like the Elmo's in my district? Or is it a fixed unit? Perhaps you can convince the powers-that-be to locate and store an extra projector and a rolling white board neara the cafeteria, so that you can give the kids the best experience possible. Also, make sure they either have a cart for you to transport your materials, or a place to store a stash of stuff near the cafeteria. It may not be the best option environmentally, but I'd use disposable cups for paint distribution. Carry buckets for soaking out brushes etc. Make sure there is a place available for handwashing, or set up a bucket system for that as well.

    I don't know if I've helped at all, but remember, ANY experience you give them is a positive thing. Give thanks that these kids aren't being deprived of having any art class at all. That would/could happen in lots of schools.

    A couple more thoughts. Work with your para - and make sure she understands what your expectations are. Then I'd assign her a group of tables/kids to supervise rather than bumping into each other all the time. Maybe at cleanup time station her at the handwashing station, while you circulate. Lay paintings in the hall to dry if you need, and send an older kid down to the cafeteria later in the day to pick them up. And make sure to label the backs (I use teacher initial). And use NAME TAGS on the kids - either name tents on the tables, or, what I do is write the kids' names on the backs of their art shirts (I require each child to have his or her own). That's enough for tonight - keep your chin up and a postive attitude! If anyone can make it work, it's an art teacher!!

  2. Hmmm this is really fishy that they are doing this to a second year teacher. I think you should contact your union rep and see what the contract says about class sizes. Our contract def. has a cap on sizes and if they go over you get paid for each student. This WILL set a precedence if you go along with it. Which means it could happen again and again to you AND other teachers. I am usually the first to help out and go along with things but this is over the top! I am so sorry!

  3. Wow, that is crazy! First I would check your contract and see if there is anything in there about student/teacher ratio. This might violate that and you could go to your union rep about it. We have a similar situation with an added kindergarten this year, and with second grade last year. We have a schedule that has all of a select grade at specials at once, so they just split the extra class and sent 5-6 kids with each of the other classes. Would it be possible for you to get together with the para before the class and show him/her how to do the lesson, and have the class split into two groups for a demo? Or, use this as leverage to get a document camera which shows whatever you're doing as a projection~like an overhead but for demos not just transparencies. I'll let you know if I think of anything else. Good luck!!

  4. This is a tough situation. One tip: when it comes to passing out materials. Have all the children close their eyes- say "no peeking until I say open your eyes". They will try to peek, but that's ok. The main thing is there is quiet, no comparing amounts received, and no one will panic due to the fear they won't get their share.

    good luck! you will do fine. Koki

  5. I am feeling better about it than I was. I tend to stress about things until I can picture how it will (hopefully) work out. I just need to kind of mentally separate that class from the others and accept that their assignments will have to be different.
    I do have a cart that I can load up with supplies. I'm sure the para will help me with buckets when we paint as I'm pregnant and don't know how long I'll be able to lift buckets of water! My projector is ceiling mounted but my mentor from last year said they may have an older portable projector that I can ask about. I'll just have to see how the first day goes and figure out what I really need to do! Thanks so much for your tips, I really appreciate them!

  6. Hi Katie,
    I know being a new/young teacher in a district can be a tough place to be. I think you should go talk to your union rep although they might not be able to do much about the situation. I DO think you can put your foot down and say if the PARA is not there for some reason that one or both of the kinder teachers HAVE to stay.
    As for getting the projects done I would give yourself permission to take twice as long to do anything with this group. If it was me I would start the class with whole group instruction and then have a A group and a B group. One group can be working independently with crayons, play dough or free collage. The other group can get your direct attention to start the project. Once they have it started then you can move onto the next group and get them started. You could even go as far as having the first group stop the project half way through and switch to play dough/choice draw while group B works on the project. That way both groups should be at about the same place in the project at the end of each class.

    And HEY! congrats on your pregnancy!

  7. Thanks! Both for the tips and the congratulations! :)

  8. ART CENTERS!! I do this every day with just 20 students. I have three tables for 3 different centers. I have kinders for 50 minutes and so I have them change tables every 15 minutes. 2 centers do not require as much of your attention as the third. I call this the "Project Table" or the "Art History Table". My centers change monthly. Sometimes I have painting, play dough, and building blocks, but I also could have a stamping center, collage, chalkboard, markers, imagination station, art games, art toys, art books, texture center, and whatever else you can think of. The most important part is teaching the kids how to change centers and when. I use a bell to let them know when to clean up the center and when to go to the next one. All centers will require some supervision. I think this would work great for huge groups with little attention spans. That's why I use centers. If you would like a list or more details just let me know.
    Becca :)

  9. Me again... Congrats on pregnancy!

    A quickie about the comments to talk to the union rep. I spent 10 years as president of my local, so I'm a strong advocate for the union, BUT - that doesn't mean there's protection for you about class size - my contract is vague on the topic. I'd certainly contact union rep and see if there's any violation, but if there isn't don't make waves as a non-tenured teacher. It has been my experience that it is VERY EASY to get rid of someone who stirs things up if they have less then three years under their belt. And this is not a good time to place your job in jeopardy! Good luck!!!

  10. Yeah... I'm not a wave-maker! I really think it's going to be ok. Survived the first day and the para and I brainstormed ideas about arranging the lunchroom tables and how to run the class so we have new things to try next week! Thanks again, everyone!

  11. WOW! I started reading comments, but skipped over some, so this maybe a bit of a repeat. For all my art teaching years I have had split classes. That's one whole class with half of another. Some years we split the extra classes across the Specials classes of music, art and 3 ways. Last year we started just splitting them in half. Some classes are up to 34 students. It makes for a very hectic day, and I feel like a baby sitter more than an art teacher at times. My solution is one I started my first year of teaching art and now it proves to be one of my best ideas. If we are painting or working in clay I give one side of the room a drawing project, even art books to read, and I work with the other side on the painting or clay. Then I switch to the other group, and send the group I just worked with to the drawing project or whatever. Sometimes I set up just one table for painting and call students to paint. I'll do this for several weeks sometimes depending on the project. This makes it easier to give instructions and the students like the change up. I also set my tables up for rotation, or centers and this makes it easier to give more one on one instructions. I feel it is terrible that they expect you to do 2 K classes. See if they would consider splitting one of the classes across the board. Our classroom teachers rotate each year who will be the split class. There is complaining from some of the classroom teachers, but we all have to give somewhere. We have a 4 day rotation day so we can all get together in the gym on Friday for art, music and PE. We could do an extra day in the classroom and give this up, but it makes for a fun way to teach art in a different way.
    The *suits* have to make themselves look good and they will always try to put more on the Specials teachers than the classroom teachers or at least at my school. I have to adjust my attitude quite often and remember I have the best job in the school. Art helps the students learn more than anything else...helps them in math, reading, social studies, everything! We are important, but most times all that is overlooked. We are thought of as frill. All art teachers know differently though. If they won't consider the splitting this year, maybe next. In the mean time remember how powerful you are and hang in there, and teach those wonderful children and amaze all of them. Don't let them see you sweat girl. I think your solution is some form of the split class over 2 whole classes...good luck you!

  12. My sympathies to you! that is a tough position to be put in...
    I've had the experience of teaching large groups of kids - all ages - at an origami summer camp. The particular requirement of origami is that the steps have to be followed exactly in the order they are presented, otherwise, you don;t end up with the thing you are folding. So. How did I solve teaching 35+ kis? The invaluable help of the counselors. We each held a large piece of paper to use as the visual guide - I led the instruction, they followed me. They were strategically located at different points in the room so they worked with different groups of kids and were able to help out the kids that needed help. Use your parents this way. I say parents, because it may be good to try and get another volunteer.

    Of course, teaching origami for a few weeks is not the same as teaching art for a whole year. As other teachers have suggested in their comments, centers are awesome! I introduce a new theme/center in kinder and let them run for two weeks/ sometimes three if the kids are particularly into them.
    Behavior management is key to running large groups. Take a few months to get kinder into the practice of your organization and rules, then you can introduce them to more guided projects. And i think breaking up the class for instruction, while the other half is doing a different, simpler activity, is also good advice.

    I get kicked out of the artroom for weeks at a time when they need it for exams in secondary. The first time, I continued my regular planning outside the classroom, visiting their homerooms and that left me exhausted just after the first week! Second time around, i knew to take better care of myself, as it was also report-writing time. I found a space outside and set-up tables and chairs. The kids came to me. And I did activities that logistically made sense [we didn't even have a sink] for set-up and clean-up. Invaluable was the help of an assistant in cleaning up. When we did paint, we had a big basket were students threw their brushes in, and cups, etc - easy to transport to the nearest sink.

    Just remember to make your life easy. "the path of least resistance". Work with what you have been given. Adjust your expectations. There are many fun things to do that don't require messy and complicated clean-ups. This is the kind of stuff that can lead to burnout, so take care of yourself!


  13. Oh! I empathize with your situation. I teach 2 sixth grade classes of 18 each and one high school class of 4 at the same time in a room designed to hold 20 students. . . Bbt at least we are all in the art room. I teach double periods like this five to six out of seven periods a day. All I can say is "punt!" I constantly explain to students how I need their help and they really rise to the occasion. Good Luck!

  14. I was given MANY double classes my first year of teaching. It was NOT good. I would have the same suggestion as a previous commenter. Split one of the classes among the others. I've had that too, and it worked much better than double.

  15. It has been going better than I thought it would. We move pretty slow. I made sketchbooks out of printer paper (I discovered the saddle stapler!) and one class gets a drawing assignment while I work with the other on the project the rest of Kindergarten did. The para pretty much takes care of the sketchbook group while I teach the other. If things are running more smoothly that day, we switch halfway through the 40 minute class, otherwise we just switch the next week. It still feels pretty chaotic but it continues to improve. :)