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Overcrowding
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At the beginning of one school year, I entered my room to see an extra row of filled desks as well as students enough to fill another row. There was hardly enough room to squeeze sideways through the rows to give help. If anyone had tried, bending would have presented a posterior to the pupil in the desk on the adjoining row. The students looked at me; I looked at them. Then they began to beg. “Please, Ms. Pruett, do not move any of us.” They were smart enough to know no teacher could have so many students in one class. I am sure they did not think staying in a class I taught would mean less work for them; possibly their friends were all in the same class.

I certainly did not like the idea of facing a challenge without winning, so I said, “Well, if you are all to stay in this class, some seating arrangements and some different rules will be necessary.” They were amenable to anything within reason, they said. As far as the seating for that class, I brought in an old “gutted hi-fi” from home for three; two sat at my desk, and the third sat on a stool at a lectern students had redone for me. I stood. That satisfied the need for seats. Then I faced the challenge of teacher/student rapport.

I said, “With so many of you in this class, you get three questions per class. When you have had one, you must go behind the students who have not yet had one and in front of the ones who have already had two. If your question is, ‘Should I put my name on the paper,’ a usual requirement, that is one. If the second question is, ‘What is today’s date’ when the calendar is right on the wall, you are at your final question. You will wait in line to speak individually with me. Do you understand the need for either changing some of you to another class or following these rules? They said they did, and, for the whole of that class, these 12th graders followed the rules.

I am sure the principal expected me to be at his door and checked to see why I did not come. J. I., one of the other teachers, came by, looked in, saw the quiet orderly students standing in line and asked me what was going on. She laughed when I told her and said, “Only you could get away with that.” Actually, my students and I were just getting what we all wanted -- they, to stay in their class with their friends; I, to maintain an orderly class.