The Trouble with Boys: Turns Out, It's Not Them

Bill Ferriter, The Tempered Radical, has a great post up about a former student of his, Jack, who is the “PROTOTYPICAL middle school boy.” It’s about how schools are simply not designed for boys – they drop out at higher rates, they’re placed in special education at higher rates, they’re suspended and expelled at higher rates – and how incredibly tragic that is.

Bill describes Jack this way:
It means that he’s a constant ball of energy, tapping his pencil, blurting out answers, standing, sitting, squirming, moving, shouting, and running all over the room. And if you let him stop by during lunch, he’ll burp the entire alphabet, stuff fourteen Cheetos up his nose, and chug milk like a frat boy on a weekend bender…If you patiently sift through the movement, though, it’s hard NOT to fall in love with “Jack the Student.” He is an inquisitive kid who is ALWAYS focused on what’s going on in class. Everything that he blurted out in my room was brilliant, directly connected to the broad themes that we were studying in class and challenging the thinking of everyone in the room—including me.

He continues the description – it’s worth a read. The post closes with, “In the end, I’m starting to think that schools are rigged against kids like Jack. And that breaks my heart.”

I completely agree.

This probably isn’t a surprise to anyone, but I love my obnoxious boys – the kids who Mrs. Mimi at It’s Not All Flowers and Sausages refers to as the Naughty Boys. They’re energetic, and crazy, and loud, and so much fun. Total whack jobs. So often they’re made to feel like they don’t fit at school, like they aren’t good enough because they aren’t the quiet girls who sit and get their work done. Would I like the Slacker to get more (okay, any) work done? Absolutely. Would it be nice if the Charmer could go a week without getting in trouble for being a smartass? Hell yes. But does that make them bad kids, or serious problems, or more trouble than they’re worth? Not in a million years.

My husband was one of those boys. So was his brother. They were active, energetic, normal boys who liked to move around and do stuff and make smartass comments. Some of their teachers could handle this, could redirect them without making them feel like failures, and some of them couldn’t.

So my husband and brother-in-law spent a lot of time kicked out of class. Frequent visits to the principal’s office. Phone calls home. Made to feel like losers. My brother-in-law especially didn’t much care for this, so he became a total behavior problem – he reminisces fondly about the different times he made teachers cry. Positive attitude? Probably not. But kids know when their teachers don’t like them, and why would you want to try for someone who clearly does not like you?

I’ve been reading the book The Trouble with Boys by Peg Tyre. I can’t remember where I found the recommendation or I’d give credit, but it’s pretty interesting. It’s written more with parents in mind than teachers, but definitely has information that I can apply to my classroom and my kids. That’s especially true for me as a Language Arts teacher, because there’s such a gap between boys and girls in reading and writing. The book’s suggestions aren’t new – boy-friendly books, choice in subject matter, male reading role models, let kids be active in the classroom at times – but they’re a good reminder.

My brother-in-law dropped out of high school. Today he’s a stable small business owner. He got his GED and works incredibly hard, but his success is due in large part to his middle class parents who gave him a down payment (the money they’d saved for his college fund) and co-signed the loan with him.

My kids don’t have parents who can do that. I need to make sure that my boys are as prepared as possible to succeed, because no one’s going to fix their mistakes for them.

(Photo credit to JoF)


Left Coasting said...

Your father and uncle too...

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Ivy said...

Came across this post when I googled, "blurting out in class." My 6th grade son keeps getting in trouble, the teacher and I don't know what to do. I have also read "The Trouble with Boys" and loved it. At the same time, I want my son to stop getting in trouble and be happy at school. ...hmmm..can you be my son's teacher? :) Anyway, thanks for the post. It makes me worry less.

"I'm a dreamer but I ain't the only one Got problems but we love to have fun" -K'naan, "Dreamer"

I teach eighth grade Language Arts at an urban school. My kids kick ass and will change the world. I want everyone to know.
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