The Berkeley High School population has been growing for many years, and this year, teachers and students alike are feeling the consequences of this reality. Several teachers this year have had to increase the number of classes they’re teaching and make extra seating space within their classes to accommodate the unanticipated class sizes.
Candiss Youngblood, an art teacher at BHS, said that this year her International Baccalaureate Studio Art class of 38 students is the biggest class she’s ever taught at BHS.
“I had to add a whole new two tables to my classroom this year to accommodate the growing number of students,” Youngblood said.
Youngblood explained that a significant reason for her large class sizes was her reluctance to drop students from her IB Studio Art class, which evidently led to her teaching all six periods instead of just five as she had originally planned. However, she explained that while it has been a bit of a challenge and an adjustment to be teaching so many students at once, an important priority to her is students’ access to creative space.
“I didn’t want these people who really value art and need to be in art for their mental health and sanity – for many reasons – I didn’t want them not having this space for an entire year,” Youngblood said.
BHS Chemistry teacher Aaron Glimme similarly noted that the main reason for his large lab classes is to make a lab section accessible to all AP Chemistry students who might have conflicting schedules.
“We’re trying to make sure that everyone can come to a lab that fits with their schedule and have minimal impact on extracurriculars,” Glimme said.
A significant obstacle that comes with larger class sizes is having adequate materials for the number of students. Glimme explained that one of the main drawbacks of such large class sizes is having to tailor certain labs to accommodate larger classes and the limited resources available to many science teachers.
“There are definitely a lot of drawbacks to not having enough lab space available to do wet labs, to do work with chemicals, and do things like that,” Glimme shared.
Youngblood has faced similar challenges this year, after taking on an impromptu sixth period; she had had to make do with the funding of only five classes. She explained, however, that the lack of financial accommodations within education has been an ongoing issue for teachers everywhere.
“In education, it seems like we grow and we change, but the people that are facilitating the work are left with the same resources and materials and money,” Youngblood said.
Eden Ross, a student in Youngblood’s largest class, explained that while the classroom environment can become fairly chaotic, there are resources available for students to meet their individual needs. “Considering the support we get in class, whether from our teacher or from our peers, it can help make it a little less stressful,” Ross said.
Youngblood also recognized her students’ willingness to share materials amongst each other and make the best out of an inconvenient situation.
“I’ve noticed that (students) are very open to sharing drawers and sharing supplies, or if we only have one of this or two of that, everyone’s really wonderful and kind and willing to collaborate,” said Youngblood.