Lost Opportunities

Dean Predhomme, Middle School Science Teacher from Bend, OR

When our middle school first opened, it had a full time culinary program, a wood shop, a full time arts program, PE, and music — both band and orchestra. Everything was fully funded. Each small learning community had a designated educational assistant, just to support student learning. All of that is long gone now due to lack of funding for education.

Last year, one thing we were really proud of here was that we finally were starting to add back a bunch of electives. We added some career technical education programs and our 6th graders got to go to those programs for the first time in years. They were really excited! I’m really afraid that if our state representatives don’t figure out a plan to create more revenue and invest in education then these programs are going to go away again. As an educator, I’m concerned my students will no longer get these opportunities as part of their education. I’m also concerned as a parent, since my son will be coming here next year.

There have been times when I have had 36 or more students in my classes. Studies show that the best way to improve learning is to give individualized feedback, and when you have 36 students, it’s very hard to get around to everybody. There are some days where you realize — “WOW! I haven’t talked to that student in like two days.” I feel bad about missing those kids, the ones that slip under the radar. With class sizes this large we lose so much of the focus on teaching and learning, and education becomes more of a focus on managing student behavior.

As a science teacher, it is very difficult to do labs and hands-on activities with large class sizes. I have to do more demonstrations and modeling for students, rather than letting them experiment. When I do model experiments, it can be hard for them to all see. Students are missing out by not getting a hands-on science experience.

In my career, I have had smaller classes, so I can see the impact it has. I’ve had classes of 24, which feel so personal. You are able to connect with each student, not only about what you are teaching, but also about them as a person. Students feel a lot more connected to you and learning overall. Thirty-five or more students in a class is way too many for a productive learning environment. Unfortunately, lack of funding for our schools means my class sizes will only get bigger.

Dean Predhomme is a Middle School Science Teacher from Bend, OR. #OREducatorVoices

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