Enrollment at M-A has reached a record high this 2015-16 school year. With the addition of over 100 new students, M-A now faces some added challenges to account for its steadily growing student body. Noticeable consequences of the extraordinary population growth include the expansion of the F-Wing, current G-Wing reconstruction, new student counselors to meet the needs of all students and perhaps most importantly, the addition of new sections to classes.
During the first week of school, some students entered their new classrooms to find tightly packed spaces with 35-40 students. These classes were unfair to both the students, some of whom did not even have desks, and to the teachers, not allowing them to give as much individual attention to students. Consequently, some classes with high population density have added new sections to accommodate student and teacher needs. Teachers who added extra periods of classes to their schedules include Peter Caryotakis, Salvadora Calonje, Nancy Day and Lisa Otsuka. Despite the sacrifice of these teachers and many others, classes remain much larger than they were five to ten years ago (See graph).
But are bigger classes really a bad thing? Although greater class sizes mean less individual attention to each student, the M-A staff recognizes the benefits of the school’s high population and diversity. Principal Simone Kennel points out that education research “highlights that relationships are really important” and even “just as important as the quality of academics.” Even though larger classes can detract from individual attention, the bigger population at M-A fosters the formation of relationships and camaraderie among students, a key factor to success.
Principal Kennel went on to state that “the more students feel connected to their school community, the less likely they are to feel depressed, to seek negative things to get involved in.” This new environment may begin to lead students away from negative influence and more toward friendship and school pride. Additionally, students can expedite the process of eliminating harmful distractions by reaching out to other students and making sure everyone is involved.
Many teachers also share these attitudes on the benefits of an expanding population. As an experienced teacher of both Psychology and AP Literature, Otsuka understands the benefits of a smaller class, but contends that students “need a class that is large enough to get energy… where you can have discussion and have agreement [and] disagreement.” Larger classes achieve a higher level of participation that can be hard to attain in a smaller class. A highly populated classroom promotes conversation and sharing of ideas.
While the benefits of a bigger population can be lost amidst the crowdedness and rush of everyday school life, recognizing them is important in order to capitalize on the advantages of M-A’s atmosphere. Although the immediate consequences may seem annoying and inconvenient, these small disruptions are worth enduring for the ultimate payoff.