Remarks by the President in Roundtable with Teachers

Statement

By:  Barack Obama II
Date: Aug. 22, 2012
Location: North Las Vegas, NV

MR. BARRON: I just want to convey the genuine appreciation and sincere thank you on behalf of not only my school but my community, and now generations of the DREAM Act kids -- we really appreciate your sincerity and, more than anything, the courage that you've had to come out and help us with the --

THE PRESIDENT: Well, when we spoke, Isaac was passionate about it, and I told you I share that passion in making sure every kid is getting a fair shot. All these pieces fit together -- good teachers, college access, making sure that every one of our kids, if they're willing to work hard, then they've got a shot.

Now, we can't do everything for them, and in the end -- my sister is a teacher, and she now is out of the classroom. She's actually at the college -- at the University of Hawaii. So she teaches teachers and sort of advises them, and works with them on a curriculum. But I see how hard you guys work and I know that you don't do it for the money. (Laughter.) You're doing it because you really, deeply care about these kids.

You guys, I'm sure, recognize that you have them for a limited part of the day, and if they're not getting reinforced at home, that's a problem. So my message is always, parents, you guys have to be part of this team. You can't just drop your kid off and expect --

MS. HENRICKSON: The triangle -- my friend says it's a triangle between the teacher, the parent, and the student. If you don't have all three, it's not there.

THE PRESIDENT: That's exactly right. But you guys need to make -- you guys need to have the support and the resources in order to be successful as well. And one of the things that I know that a lot of you guys are concerned about is class size, which is something that's subject to periodic debate. But I don't know too many teachers who don't think that having smaller class size allows you to do a better job. And, Lori, you --

MS. HENRICKSON: Well, I teach science, and it's such a hands-on activity. If I want to do a hands-on activity, it's so hard when there's -- if I have 40 kids in that class. Like I have it set up now -- I have six groups of six. And I'm thinking, what if I had 38 students? What am I going to do with those kids? Am I going to have enough supplies? That's one thing. If I have big class sizes, am I going to have enough supplies to make those groups work?

And I think in science -- I know it's probably in every subject, but it's the meaningful experience, the hands-on, meaningful experiences that those kids need to call upon when they're tested or in life -- that if they don't have those hands-on experiences, it's just -- it's so hard for them to -- and, yes, but 40 12-year-olds, like holy cow, that's -- your daughter is 13, yes? Your oldest?

THE PRESIDENT: She's 14.

MS. HENRICKSON: Oh, 14 -- okay. But imagine 40 --

THE PRESIDENT: Forty of them.

MS. HENRICKSON: -- yes, in one room for 50 minutes and I need to teach them --

THE PRESIDENT: It's frightening. (Laughter.)

MS. HENRICKSON: Yes. And it's so -- or I do Earth Science, and so we get to do space, and space is so exciting, with the Mars Curiosity --

THE PRESIDENT: Right.

MS. HENRICKSON: -- and so many things. And I'm about to do technology and I do -- I've been following the Mars Curiosity on Twitter, and it's hilarious. And I want to incorporate those things, and it's just -- when there's so many kids in that classroom, it's how do I touch them, how do I get those students to be excited about -- as excited as I am? How do I give that to them?

THE PRESIDENT: And then if one of them is stuck, you need to --

Q Have that one-on-one time.

THE PRESIDENT: -- have the one-on-one time.

In terms of that, I was talking to a math teacher in Pennsylvania, in Scranton, and -- I think he was middle school -- no, it was probably high school, because he was teaching geometry so I suspect it was probably 9th grade or 10th grade. But he was saying his traditional pattern has been that after people do the overall assignment as a group, then he'd give everybody problem sets. And he'd go around the room and when he had 28 kids or 25 kids, then he'd go around three times. And you add an extra five, six, seven kids in the class and then he could only go around twice.

So he was explaining how each class for the entire year he's touching each one of those kids one less time per class in individualized instruction, which meant that if they got stuck or they got lost it was going to make a difference.

And you've seen this, right, Claritssa? Your classes actually have increased since you started teaching.

(Travel pool exits.)