Learn how one principal handled the issue of overcrowded classrooms. Once a new class and teacher were approved, the problem went away. Right? Wrong! Instead, staff members were faced with the problem of moving students who already had bonded with a teacher.
When school opened this year, 1,004 students showed up. That was 100 students above our projections -- in a school built for 600 students! Ten days into the term, the school board approved hiring a new third-grade teacher to relieve overcrowding at that level; the board used a state allocation for reducing class size. Adding a new class to reduce overcrowding might seem like a good problem to have, but it can be a very difficult thing to do. It is difficult to move students who have already formed bonds with their new teacher, their classmates, and their classroom. In addition, parents probably would prefer not to disturb a situation that is going well.
I saw that the easiest solution was to hire the best teacher I could find. I interviewed eight prospective teachers for the job and selected a dynamite teacher who came to us from Texas with nine years of teaching experience. Before the students were selected for the move, the new teacher went to each class and introduced herself. Once we put together a class list, we sent a letter to notify parents of the affected students. I made myself available to meet with any parent who wanted to express a concern about the move. (Only one parent called; I was able to reassure her about her concerns.) Our school's open-house night was the night before the change was to take place, so we had a special introduction session with the teacher, students, and parents. That gave the new teacher an opportunity to introduce herself, share her prior experience, respond to any questions, and provide her phone number for follow-up questions. The first day went very well. I personally went to the class to be sure everything was going smoothly. The students were on-task and seemed to have adjusted to the change.
There were no surprises in what I learned. For me, the experience reinforced those qualities most parents want their children's teachers to have. Our parents were most concerned that the new teacher be experienced, knowledgeable, friendly, and a good communicator. Giving students and parents an opportunity to meet the teacher in advance calmed any fears they might have had.
About the How I Handled... Team of Principal Problem Solvers
The How I Handled... series is intended to be practical resource for all principals and principals-to-be. Six principals comprise our problem-solving team. This team of hard-working and reflective principals remains anonymous; in that way, they can share freely the range of issues/problems they are called on to solve each day. The series also illustrates the wide range of skills today's principals are required to possess. Two members of the team are elementary school principals, two work at the middle level, and two are high school principals.