Pinewood is known for being a tiny school. Many people look down upon this, as they fail to see the overwhelming benefits of having such a small, closely-knit community of both students and faculty. Last year, I had a class with only six people. I have friends who have taken Spanish courses with only three other students. On field trip days, or when the flu went around last year, some classes had as few as three
Small class size allows for higher student-teacher interaction, a higher chance for class participation, and overall improved student performance.
When teachers only have eight to 12 students, they are able to devote their full attention to the individual needs of each student. This means that no student can hide behind large numbers, and struggling students have more opportunities to ask for help. Teachers are also able to return collected work and tests in a timely fashion and give students immediate feedback.
“In smaller classes, every student has to participate. I think this really correlates to a higher level of performance, especially in Spanish class,” Spanish teacher José Luis Orduña said.
There are some advantages to larger classes and disadvantages to smaller classes, however. Bigger classes teach students how to be independent and self motivated, but also how to work effectively in groups. In such a small class (between four to 10 students), having a group-wide discussion can be difficult or slow. In a class of 20 students, there are 20 brains hard at work trying to come up with a solution in math or new ideas to contribute in literature.
“In bigger classes, you get more input and more discussion, and I like to have more people involved in the conversation. I think that’s easier when you have more students,” math teacher Scott Green said.
On one of our days off, I shadowed with my friend at Los Altos High School for one class. According to US News and World Report, LAHS has 1,700 students and around 80 teachers, with a 21:1 teacher student ratio.
This size is fairly typical of most of the public high schools in this area. I went to her AP English Language class, and couldn’t help but compare it to my own class that I was taking at the time with David Wells. While I had about 15 students in my class (which I thought was big at the time), she had around 30 students (which she considered normal). The class was broken up into eight groups with about four students in each group. Throughout the entire class, the teacher only came over to our group once or twice, and even then she didn’t really add much to the conversation. When I left the classroom, I felt like I had learned nothing.
Although small classes might feel cramped and annoying, in 10 years we will look back and be grateful for having had such a positive, nurturing learning environment.