My composition classes here at Shepherd are capped at 25. At UNCG, we were capped at 22. At Richmond it was 15 (what a treat that was!). Fifteen was awesome--as a teacher, I could give each student and each paper lots of time and attention. We could have meaningful discussions about writing and revisions. Twenty-two worked just fine, though, too. And even 25 isn't too bad--but it's clearly not ideal. (I can't remember how many students were in GST 101/102 classes at Roanoke--do any of my fellow alums remember?) Here's an excerpt from the article explaining why--and why there aren't any short-term solutions to this growing problem:
"Here is how it works: La'Shonda Broxton, an 18-year-old DBCC student, wrote a process essay on what it takes to be a successful high school freshman, and she was proud of her work.
Her professor, Carolyn West, wanted her to do better.
"She said I wasn't specific enough," Broxton said. "I wrote that it takes a good attitude and self-esteem. And she asked, 'How are you going to get attitude and self-esteem?' I wasn't specific enough."
That kind of individualized attention takes time, which is why the English teachers' council guidelines for a professor in one semester is three courses of no more than 20 students per class.
Evan Rivers, chairman of DBCC's English Department, said comp classes' enrollment was capped at 22 when he took over last year. This year, the cap was raised to 25 (and in one case 26) mostly because of the enrollment surge and the fact that English composition is a requirement for so many other classes.
"There's nothing I would like better than to follow National Council of Teachers of English guidelines. Nothing would make me happier . . . but there's nothing we can do," he said.As I said above, 25 students is manageable, though not ideal. I am just worried that soon it will be 26, or 27, 0r 28--you get my point. As my previous posts about weekends spent grading indicate, the work load for these classes can be quite daunting. I hate to complain about my job because, as I've also written about before, I feel pretty darn lucky to get to do this for a living. But I do think there is a point where the quality of instruction will suffer too much to justify increasing enrollments. On the simplest level, as a teacher, I am a lot happier having to read 20 papers than having to read 25. That really isn't fair to the "extra" five students in my class.