Mr. Smith's Neighborhood

It's a beautiful day in the Neighborhood for teachers everywhere! Anything and everything is fair game!

Give Boys a Break! April 20, 2006

First, I need to pass along some great news about my Alma Mater:

The Drexel School of Education has again been ranked by U.S. News & World Report among America’s Best Graduate Schools. In the 2007 edition, Drexel ranks 57th in the nation among graduate education programs and 16th among private colleges and universities. In the latest ranking, Drexel is nine positions higher than it was ranked last year, and two positions higher among private colleges and universities.

I am very proud of my decision to attend Drexel. IMHO, Drexel has a wonderful staff of instructors who know more than most about education and work hard to be ahead of the curve on pedagogy and best practices. They have taught me more in just two years then I learned in my previous16 years of school that ended back in 1979. The real winners, however, have been my students. My students are fortunate that their teacher actually learned useful techniques which he applies every single day. I also learned the value of working with the administration (not against them) and with the PTS and parents. Drexel has delivered!

However, as every teacher quickly learns, there is no way that classroom instruction and books can prepare you for every situation. Inspiring Teachers recently gave a weekly tip about working with boys in the classroom. The author passes along three very good books about teaching boys: Bringing Up Boys by Dr. James Dobson, The Wonder of Boys by Michael Gurian, and The Minds of Boys also co-authored by Michael Gurian. It seems that boys are built a little different than girls (okay, no wisecracks).


While reading the article, two things became quite apparent to me. First, during my trip down memory lane, it was easy to see how the pattern so perfectly matched my boyhood experiences as a student. Yours truly was the perfect definition of the bored, fidgety, risk-taking student. Dobson is quoted as blaming this behavior on high levels of testosterone, low levels of serotonin and a large amygdala (an almond-shaped mass of gray matter in the anterior portion of the temporal lobe). Knowledge of this about 40 years ago would have given me a decent debating point with my parents and teachers who were convinced that there was nothing between my ears except empty space.

However, a second thing became apparent. While much of my classroom discipline as a teacher is equally spread between boys and girls, my reaction to misbehavior by boys has tended to be slightly more severe. Girls, especially those in The Bronx, seem to do many of the same silly things as boys (forgetting/not doing homework, handing in assignments late, talking during class, etc.). For girls, most of their misbehavior is socially oriented (for good or bad); they have personal conflict and even some physical confrontations. In my school, girls are often far more aggressive than boys and their confrontations are much more physical. While the more severe confrontations between girls receive appropriate discipline, the boys seem to get in trouble much more regularly.

Boys just seem to act weird. I have had boys who were my wandering minstrels, moving about the classroom in an orbit not unlike Halley’s Comet. Many boys of different ages, all extremely bright, had moments when their minds are somewhere in the vicinity of Andromeda. Several other boys manage to unconsciously contort their bodies in ways that remind me of Mumenschantz. My favorite boys were always the brightest ones who slump into various physical positions with raised arms when a question is asked … and they often are speechless when called upon to answer a question.

My point is that teachers need to be more patient with boys in the classroom. Inspiring Teachers offers some great suggestions and guidelines for working with boys. While I wish that the Dominican Nuns and Christian Brothers of Ireland had been more understanding of a certain class clown. This boy could entertain and engage the masses with tons of gags, sound effects, spitball attacks and other distractions. Maybe that same kid would have heard all the secrets of the universe that he missed during 8th Grade because he was thrown out of class every single day for the entire year (while still graduating second-in-merit with a 3.98 average).

So please … give the boys a break.

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3 Responses to “Give Boys a Break!”

  1. Wendy King Says:

    I couldnt agree more, Vern! Of course, that could have something to do with the fact that I have 2 boy-one of them being a 4th grader with all kinds of boy issues……especially that the prescripted reading program doesnt include nearly enough “boy” reading material. I have read two of those books in my attempts to understand my sons behavioral and academic issues. I am convinced that elementary school is a more friendly place for girls than boys, because, despite what Cyndi Lauper says, BOYS just wanna have fun!

  2. Laurel Says:

    Andromeda, Oh so-true! Glad to see you are still writing your thoughts. Just wanted to take a minute and congratulate you on graduation- alas I still have 7cr. to go. Good Luck & stay away from the volcanos! L

  3. Shahmaan Says:

    Fantastic adventure! its true you know, us boys like space travelling. Good luck with the teaching and take it easy on the class clown remember?


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