Boys and school

My parents came for dinner and brought with them an article in McLean’s in which a psychologist was interviewed about boys and schools.  The article was affirming and challenging for me.  It talked about the great differences between the learning styles of boys and those of girls.  These differences are not surprising but still form a challenge for me.

What is it that boys find so difficult in school?  Sitting and listening.  Just come to my classroom. I have many boys who need constant reminders and support to sit and listen and only one or two girls who need occasional support to sit and listen.  Honestly, sitting and listening is not what I want to be teaching but it feels like a necessary part of the process.  How can I do anything without the need to have them sit and listen – at least to begin with.

It also mentioned that noise is more bothersome to girls than it is to boys.  Yet I would say that when it gets very noisy in my room very little of what I want to have happening is then happening.  I feel like I am trying to fit perfectly normal boys into a box which will not hold them and it reminds me of the poster in my parents’ study – Do not try to teach a pig to sing, it wastes your time and annoys the pig!

So I spend my time annoying the pigs!  I am so far away from my ideal classroom so far from being the ideal teacher.  Ah to be Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society.  I have been told by friends who are parents but not teachers that I am perhaps expecting too much.  I have been told by colleagues that perhaps I am expecting too much.

I want to expect too much so now what?  I want to teach students to think for themselves, to engage in their own learning, to love the natural world, to be inspired by beauty and to create beauty for themselves.   I fear sometimes that I teach only what it is like for adults to become frustrated while teaching pigs to sing.

Ideally, I would teach a smaller group of children in a bigger classroom.  Ideally, I would have computers for about half of my students.  Ideally, I would allow students to pursue their own interests.  Ideally, I would have centers set up for them to explore, room for them to lounge as they read, books of all kinds and at levels, particularly non-fiction and cartoons.

But it isn’t ideally, it’s really.  They are really there.  They really need me.  I really need to teach them.  I really have twenty five of them in a small box.  They really can not leave their desks and chat through instructions, work time, and reading time.  I really have one computer.  I really have mostly fiction in my room.

They really like games.  They really like Bones books.  They really sing well.  They are really fine people.  They really have a sense of humour.  They really want to be good and  be accepted.  They really want to have fun.

Funny, I really can’t wait to plan my next unit.  Maybe this time…

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6 Comments

Filed under classroom, education, personal

6 responses to “Boys and school

  1. If it makes you feel any better, your classroom sounds a lot like mine – except that I have more computers. And they do help.

    Ideally, we would remember that our ideals are only that – ideals – which would be a big step toward learning to live with reality. I feel like you do. Every day.

    It helps to know that other people see the same things I see. Thanks.

  2. It always is good to talk to you Doug. Thanks for dropping in.

  3. This post really hit home for me because I often find myself fuming about how much better I’d be able to teach if only this and if only that. Well, you’re right, we need to deal with what’s “really” and work slowly toward “ideally”. Ideally I’d have 1 laptop per student with about 10 backups, ideally I’d have my own classroom with real “office” desks w/ drawers for each student (teach bus ed). Really I sometimes have more kids than computers and don’t have my own classroom and computers are on tables. It works, though, and the students are having a blast what I’m teaching them. That’s what’s important. The part about boys learning differently really makes me think as well…….I’d like to do more research on that………..

  4. My division is currently supporting teachers in the grades 4-8 with doing their own prof. development on reading. I’m hoping to do some research in the area of boys, cognition, social development and literacy. I know it’s a pretty general pursuit thus far but I want to understand these kids and try to meet their needs within the confines of the real classroom. I’ll blog about what the research says and what I think I can do and hopefully about what’s working!

  5. That is also my typical classroom. But this year I will have 4 computers, my own laptop and a smartboard. Hopefully this will improve the education with boys but I think my first few lessons will need to be about computer and internet safety especially as I want the students to do some blogging this year. I don’t know if any of them do this at home already so hurry up week one ………..

  6. I always like reading your posts. They are really real and deal with what is going on in the classroom not some hoped-for or wannabe idea but the actual “He moved the book on the corner of my desk” stuff. As Doug commented, having an “ideal” is great as long as one remembers that comparing it to the “real” shouldn’t bring you down.
    Your classroom sounds so much like the ones I visit each day. It sounds alive and full of life. Your own reflections on this demonstrates how aware you are of what is happening – the potential that is there before you. Don’t run yourself over with the ideal. It’s good to have and good to see you giving all you can. I’d love to visit. It’s teachers like you who, “seeing the possibilities”, don’t sell their students short. Keep strong!

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