West Seattle schools: Sanislo teacher’s letter to you

September 27, 2012 at 10:13 am | In West Seattle news, West Seattle schools | 26 Comments

The issue of school crowding is a big one in West Seattle’s public schools right now. But it’s an issue at some schools that aren’t necessarily overcrowded overall – but dealing with issues in individual classes or grades. A Sanislo Elementary teacher has a message for you, and an invitation, in this letter about what’s happening at her school:

I have twenty-eight students in my kindergarten classroom at Sanislo Elementary.

As a veteran teacher I can say that I have faced numbers like this before, back in 1984-85. But with the education standards of 2012 is this an equitable start for these 28 young children, these eager to learn, clamoring to be seen and heard, and budding students? My team teaching partner faces 29 students on her side of the room. Yes, I said ROOM. We are 102 A and B at Sanislo Elementary. Our building is designed in the open concept style.

The contractual class size limit in Seattle Public Schools is 26. For the time being, Ernie Seevers, our principal, has done his best to provide more assistance in our classrooms by assigning tutors to help us throughout the day. The tutors are incredibly kind and understanding of young children and they are very good at carrying out our quick directions to work with students on writing, reading, or cutting and gluing. But tutors are a temporary measure. Twenty-six students are the contractual number, and in all honesty, that number should be even lower. We need another classroom teacher at Sanislo to provide adequate learning opportunity for our youngest students.

In the 9-23-12 Seattle Times there was an article titled: Why Washington Kids Aren’t Going to College. The last line of the article quotes State Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, saying “Our kids are not getting the bug for learning.” Isn’t kindergarten where that ‘bug’ should begin? If you are a Sanislo parent, alumnus, or the parents of alumni, please join us at the community meeting with Superintendent Jose Banda on Tuesday, Oct. 2, at Concord International Elementary School, 723 S. Concord St. at 6:00 pm. The children can reach quite a volume in the classroom but they need you and I to make a din for them on the outside.

Teresa Goethe
Sanislo Kindergarten Teacher

26 Comments

  1. I will be there! The numbers of 28, 29 or even 26 don’t do justice to the reality of facing that many children. When I passed Ms.Goethe’s class returning from the library I was dismayed by the long, long line of children. We need to raise our voices loudly on this issue!

    Comment by GAW — 11:00 am September 27, 2012 #

  2. I had 30+ in my classes growing up, and turned out fine. I’m sure it’s not ideal, but it can’t be as dire as it is being made out here.

    Comment by Jeff — 11:44 am September 27, 2012 #

  3. We will be there, this is such an important issue…

    Thanks for writing this!

    Comment by Matt — 11:53 am September 27, 2012 #

  4. That is one brave teacher standing up for the rights of our kids. Even the best of the best have a huge challenge (impossible I dare say) “teaching” that many kids. How can you possibly give individual attention with those numbers… especially given the diversity in public schools, often having multiple children who do not speak English as their primary language at home, if at all. Not to mention all children who may have learning disabiities that will need early detection — most critrical to catch early on in a child’s academic life. And on top of these, many, many more challenges come with our kids to school each day — and one teacher is expected to attend to their unique needs as early learners! Important lessons are lost– attention to: social development, bullying, self-esteem, difficulties at home, not getting enough food at home, blah blah blah — teachers today are expected to teach so many academic skills when the basic survival requirements are not being met for these kids at home, let alone at school. These kids are having to fend for themselves, competing with 28 other hungry minds (and perhaps stomachs) for the attention of one teacher. Poor teacher — set up for failure — very unfair for all. And the price we pay, as society, is exponential as the years of “no learning” go on and on for each individual student — who will often go on to drop out, fail, turn to drugs, turn to the wrong crowd to find some level of success in life….. we all pay for social service to address these kids once they grow up and have dysfunctional adult lives. Why do we continue to be so short sighted? Less money spent on lower education means tons more spent on social services later on.

    Comment by juniperberry — 12:12 pm September 27, 2012 #

  5. Oh and for what it’s worth, the bug for learning mentioned should be there YEARS before kindergarten.

    Comment by Jeff — 12:27 pm September 27, 2012 #

  6. Good for you, Ms. Goethe! Thank you for taking the time to provide the public with an accurate account of an obstacles your classroom faces. I wish more teachers would speak up, because I know there are many other classrooms in our public schools that are facing a similar obstacle. A K class of 29 should definitely not be allowed. Do you have an employee of SPS that asists or are the tutors volunteers?

    Comment by HPMom — 12:40 pm September 27, 2012 #

  7. I will always support learning. I am just wondering how things have changed so much? I always had 32 kids in my class with a T.A. from the 8th grade class to grade papers for one period. My question is sincere. Thanks!

    Comment by bsmomma — 12:58 pm September 27, 2012 #

  8. Just for the record, we also did not have full day K. There was always an AM and PM class. So we were split up in K. I completely agree that 26+ is way to much for everyone involved.

    Comment by bsmomma — 1:01 pm September 27, 2012 #

  9. I will always support learning as well- just don’t know what the answer is . We can & do pass levies– but it seems like just throwing money to the School District isn’t necessarily the solution. I’m tired of headlines screaming of the waste & scams & the District not overseeing spending properly . I sure don’t want to penalize teachers, schools , & kids – but we have to demand better accountability from the district & the School Board. I applaud Ms. Goethe for speaking out & hope something can be done to help.

    Comment by Anne — 1:51 pm September 27, 2012 #

  10. My wife is one of the tutors. She is not a person who exaggerates and she says the current situation is extremely challenging. Another interesting bit from the article referenced by Teresa is that Washington has slipped from 11th to 46th in the national ranking of percentage of students who enroll full time in college right after high school.

    Comment by Hoff-animal — 2:00 pm September 27, 2012 #

  11. Jeff, YOU turned out fine, but what about the others in your class? Probably a good percentage of students do fine, because they fall within the bell curve of the “normal” learner — but as for anyone who is not on that curve — they are basically on their own. So sure, lots of kids will probably do well, or at least get by, but there will be many who do not. Those are the kids that need help the most and are not able to get it when there are 28 kids in a K class, ugh.

    Comment by juniperberry — 2:45 pm September 27, 2012 #

  12. Juniper…I agree but also want to point out the flip side of that coin – the kids that need the most help can affect the rest of the class. Perhaps a larger topic than just class size, but worth noting.

    Comment by Hoff-animal — 5:39 pm September 27, 2012 #

  13. “Fine”, Jeff? “FINE”? Are you kidding me? You have very low standards; very low expectations indeed.

    This sort of mentality is exactly why our nation ranks at the bottom, or near bottom, of just about any academic list you can find comparing the U.S. to Western, and even non-Western Civilizations!

    I was in a 30+ public-school kindergarden too. It was half-day, we were all white, we all spoke English, most of us had two parents at home, and there was food on the table at every meal. Like it or not, “Jeffs”, we live in a different world now. Catch up!

    I want excellence for these kids, every single one: white, black, or purple, English speaking, or Swahili. EXCELLENCE, not “FINE”! I want A+’s, not C’s! These kids deserve it, and come to think of it, we deserve it too. Because if these kids aren’t smart enough to get into college, get jobs, and pay taxes… where will you and I be 20 years from now, “Jeffs”? Where will our country be 20 years from now, Jeffs”? We reap what we sow. I want an EXCELLENT harvest 20 years from now, not one that is merely, “fine”.

    And by the way… thank you Ms. Shipper, for giving me the “bug for learning” when I was in 6th grade! Not before then did I feel as if I had an adult in my life who cared about me, as an individual. I survived because of her. I am “FINE” because of her; that one adult who was willing to stick her neck out for me… like Ms. Goethe is for her 5-year-old students.

    These kids are lucky; they didn’t have to wait until 6th grade, like I did. They’ve got a kindergarten teacher who obviously cares about their collective future, and ours as well… unlike the “Jeff’s” of our city/country/world.

    We ALL need to support Ms. Goethe and her students, Sanislo alumni or not. Our collective future depends on kindergarten teachers like her.

    Thank you Ms. Goethe. I appreciate what you do every day. Please don’t be discouraged by the “Jeffs” of our world. Keep fighting, for all of us.

    Comment by a_non-"Jeff" — 10:07 pm September 27, 2012 #

  14. I turned out fine even though my parents never put me in a car seat or made me wear a seat belt…. but plenty of kids did not, that’s why we now have car seats and seat belts.

    Comment by Heidi A — 10:07 pm September 27, 2012 #

  15. This is easily one of the most important letters ever posted here on WSB. Everyone needs to take heed and realize this is a problem that will not go away on its own. We need to support Ms Goethe, it’s that important. PLEASE, we beg of you, go to the meeting next Tuesday, show your support, demand better from the district, demand better for our students.

    Comment by jeunglady — 11:14 pm September 27, 2012 #

  16. Thank you a_non-”Jeff” and thank you Ms. Goethe for your letter and supporting our children. My kids do not go to your school but I would have been proud to have you be their kindergarten teacher. It’s a different world out there and there are many, many challenges that our teachers did not have to deal with 30+ years ago…or if they did have the problems they ignored the problems instead of trying to fix it. I turned out ‘fine’ too but I want better for my kids. Doesn’t every parent?

    Comment by Bonnie — 7:29 am September 28, 2012 #

  17. Ok then, I turned out better than fine. I’ve got a great life. My parents demanded excellence of me, even if school did not. Public schools can’t be expected to fix all the ills of a bad home life. It can’t be done, and it isn’t their place to do so. Not everyone is cut out for college, not everyone is exceptional, and to quote the honorable Judge Smails, “The world needs ditch-diggers too.”

    To put a finer (haha) point on it, at what point is enough enough? Nobody can EVER answer that for me. It’s always more money, smaller classes, more money, smaller classes, and the results NEVER get better because 95% of success comes from having parents who value education!

    Comment by Jeff — 8:09 am September 28, 2012 #

  18. You are what’s called “lucky.” Not every child is, and yes, public education needs to take that into account, both for the children and for their later contributions to society. If it only helps the kids who’s home resources are more than adequate to prepare them for life regardless, that is a huge problem. In K in particular, and and some schools more than others, there’s tremendous diversity of needs and large class sizes have a high impact. For the record, Mrs. Goethe was my daughter’s K teacher and she’s gifted, seasoned, and highly competent in every facet of teaching and classroom management–if she says it’s an impediment, it is.

    Comment by vs — 10:37 am September 28, 2012 #

  19. Even more upsetting to me is that parents of kindergarteners are being asked to pay for this “free” public education. If the state is going to adopt (it has) the common core standards then full day kindergarten needs to be FREE! Parents are being asked to pay 260$ a month for their kids to have a full day of kindergarten. The Common Core Standards are written with a full day program in mind. Kindergarten teachers are expected to teach these standards to a group of 26+ kids and some of these kids have to leave at lunchtime if thier parents can’t afford to pay. This year our kindergarten classes have three sets of twins, those families are paying more than $500 a month for public education. This, along with raising class sizes makes me feel ill!

    Comment by Abby G — 11:27 am September 28, 2012 #

  20. There is no easy fix to this problem. I agree, it all comes down to the parents but we can’t force parents to be involved. Maybe private schools can but we can’t all afford private schools (or wish to go to private school). $260 a month for kindergarten is unacceptable. Jeff, you are ‘lucky’ but let’s not tell kindergarteners don’t aim high because we will still need ditch diggers. Yes, some will be ditch diggers but we need them to have dreams and aim high. If we tell them they are no better than a ditch digger they will only think of themselves as a ditch digger.

    Comment by Bonnie — 11:57 am September 28, 2012 #

  21. All folks posting here- just wondering if you have ideas on how to improve things? The problems have been identified but no solutions offered – perhaps talking things out at this meeting will produce some. I don’t mind voting for school levies- but I would like more believable assurances from the District/ School Board that there will be scrupulous oversight of taxpayers money. The State Dept of Education should be spending more time on trying to fix the quality of education instead of what a schools mascot is( a story I heard from news media today). When there are smaller classrooms, ample supplies, current textbooks & clean safe buildings- then they can work on mascots!

    Comment by Anne — 4:38 pm September 28, 2012 #

  22. …. Kids are expensive….. They are precious, beyond value, etc….. But the bottom line is, it costs A LOT to raise children…… I’m kind of surprised by the folks complaining that 1/2 day of extra kindergarten costs $260 / month….. I’m sure that those folks would say that their taxes should be paying for that….. But to tell the truth, NO, they shouldn’t…..and they CAN’T….. All day kindergarten is NOT currently funded by the state. If you want it funded, step up and pay more…. I pay the same taxes as you folks, and I don’t even have kids…. But I also BELIEVE in the value and importance of public education. So parents that are complaining about $260… C’mon… Your kids are WORTH it.

    …. And yes, I am proud to be public school teacher here in West Seattle.

    Comment by Dano — 8:38 pm September 28, 2012 #

  23. In defense of ditch digging, I highly recommend it.
    I’ve had other so called professional jobs, but nothing beats ditch digging.
    Really. I dug a huge one last week replacing a sewer line.
    It can pay well. I feel good at the end of the day.
    I’m not obese. I love being outside and seeing the beautiful
    sky, and love being one with the earth.
    “Aim high”, just what does that mean?
    My aim is simplicity, and the less material things in my
    life the better. Try reading a little Chinese philosophy.
    Seek the lowest in life, be like the water.
    My aims are happiness, low stress, love. No evil and no envy.
    That, takes work. That’s what I like to see being taught.
    BTW, I’ve seen some of the teachers in action at Sanislo, they are AMAZING.

    Comment by Skylark — 10:39 am September 29, 2012 #

  24. I realize the teachers job is very demanding and the kids are crowded into to little space….but when the seattle school district is so topheavy with parasites that take the lion’s share of the operating money just to keep them in new prius’s and fine roomey offices in the palace on lander st. I am suprised the teachers do as good as they do . loose about fifty percent of them and then see if the class size can be fixed. I drive a car that is old they can too. bob

    Comment by robert — 9:50 pm September 30, 2012 #

  25. STEM just received some of the Sanislo kids, per rumor. Now one of our K classes has 30 kids. A lot of our classes are in the high 20′s.

    Comment by evergreen — 6:40 am October 1, 2012 #

  26. Jeff, you know why it’s always “more money, smaller classes”? Because every year our school budgets hemorrhage money and keep creeping up in class size.

    Comment by Matt K — 4:16 pm October 1, 2012 #

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