Wow. It’s a little on the long side (yes, I’ve got ADD and twelve minutes is a long time for me to attend to almost anything…), but this video is powerful. Ali Carr-Chellman (I’ve never heard of her before but she’s one of my new heroes) expounds on why boys are overwhelmingly failing in today’s schools.

Here are her basic three reasons why boys are out of sync in classrooms. After each symptom, I’m giving a little bit of my perspective… because you know, I have to so much to say about stuff.

1.Zero Tolerance – Most schools today have a zero tolerance for anything that resembles a weapon. With the violence in middle and high schools, these polices are certainly understandable… problem is, most boys yearn for the magical, the fantasy, the otherworldly elements in their reading and writing.

If you’ve never read Ralph Fletcher’s Boy Writers (another hero of mine), do yourself a favor and pick it up… especially if you’re a female and work with boys. He does a remarkable job of explaining why boys are drawn to these elements and offers many tips on how we can be inclusive of their desires.

Simply put, Zero Tolerance rules are black and white and we all know the world is made of many more shades.

2.Fewer male teachers – According to Ms. Carr-Chellman only 7% of elementary teachers are men. That’s it. That’s pathetic.

When I walk the hallways of my school, it never ceases to amaze me the number of boys that I don’t know who seek me out for waves, high fives, smiles, you name it. They are craving a male to look up to.

Whatever the reason, men aren’t going into teaching, especially in elementary grades. Boys need to see men in the classrooms. When you walk into an unfamiliar place and look around, you see who is in charge… it helps guide your opinion about that place. Quite simply, boys walk into classrooms and only see women feel like this is definitely a place for girls, but wonder where do the boys fit in?

3.Curriculum Compression – Everyone knows kindergarten is becoming more like first grade (Ms. Carr-Chellman suggests it’s the new second grade… scary). With boys generally developing slower than girls, where does this leave the boys? Far behind, that’s where.

I’m not exactly sure how we as educators can help boys keep up, but we need to be asking the question and thinking about solutions. So go ahead, please comment below and share your ideas for helping boys be successful.


Kelly "Game Face" Love said...

My husband sent me this weeks ago, but honestly, haven't watched it yet -- did watch Jane McGonigal's TED talk, though. I live this. Few weeks ago I even used a gaming/reading analogy with two boy students - they said, "Mrs. Love - you just hypnotized us...." Boys I get. My 8th grade girl students - I get them, too. Painfully. Still thinking about the body image blog post. It's coming.

Anonymous said...

I agree 100% about the lack of male teachers. We have 2 male classroom teachers in PreK-6th. Working in an inner city school, my students lack male role models in general. Most come from broken homes without a father figure. My principal is actively trying to target those at-risk boys... here are some things we've done, hope to do, or I've seen done elsewhere:

-Expose struggling boys to as many positive male role models as possible. This could be both in the community and in the school building.
-Take the boys to see male speakers or on male-targeted field trips.
-Hold a career panel for boys with successful male role models (not just football players, but doctors, teachers, mechanics, journalists, etc).
-Start a Big Brother program with male high school students who can meet with their elementary school buddies weekly. Could serve as community service for the HSers too.
-Set up a "check and connect" program within the building where struggling boys "check in" with a male teacher, coach, aide, counselor during the day to make sure they're on track. Can also branch into mentoring if appropriate.
-Look into boys targeted after school programs. See if a counselor could conduct a "boys group" (even if the counselor is female, the group of boys could foster camaraderie).

Burlington Integrated Preschool said...

Nice post. Certainly give you something to think about.

Teacher Tom said...

I remember watching one of my daughter's kindergarten classmates, a boy with a very sharp mathematical mind. They were working on some kind of math assignment and he simply couldn't do it while sitting in his chair. His nose was to his paper, he was working on the assignment, but his legs were in perpetual motion, getting tangled up in his chair. He fell to the floor twice during the 5 minutes I watched, and had to pick his chair up a couple times as well. I was so glad the teacher didn't come down on this guy for being squirrelly, but sadly I think a lot of teachers do.

I've found that many boys (and some girls) are like this. They think better when their bodies are allowed to move. In our preschool, the kids are rarely expected to sit down, let alone sit still. I'll never forget little Remick, a guy who could barely speak. One day we had a large pendulum suspended from the ceiling. The idea was to swing it around a caution cone and knock down a block building on the other side. He nailed it on the first attempt, while none of the other kids could get it even after several attempts. After watching the other kids struggle for awhile, he said, quite clearly, "Throw the ball at me." When the kids did, he ran ahead of the ball, leading it along the course to the target. He spent the rest of the morning running and chattering away about how to get the pendulum to work.

I'm sure there are other factors, but the biggest one to me is the unrealistic expectation that kids (boys and girls) should have to sit in chairs. Maybe we should trade them out for palates balls or something.

I have 9 boys in my pre-k class this year. There are 5 tape lines on the floor: one for guys who want to lie down, one for sitters, one for knee sitters, one for standers, and one in the back for the guys who want to jump up and down. It works.

Mister said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Look at My Happy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Look at My Happy said...

@Aimee - those are all excellent ideas!

@Tom - love the tape idea... I have squares and benches and a space next to the benches for my boys who need to kneel, jump, roll, etc. Do the boys know specifically what each line is for?

Jonelle Bell said...

You should read Ralph Fletcher's book, Boy Writers: Reclaiming Their Voices. It is a great book!
Jonelle Bell
A Place Called Kindergarten

Susan Seale said...

Great post!
Love the comment about the lines for sitting and standing and jumping.

When I read the part about boys not being allowed to have weapons,etc.. I thought...boomwhackers.

One of the things that boys REALLY love about music at my studio are the Boomwhackers!

You have to whack them (the boomwhackers not the kids) to make music and they make great swords too. Just an idea for a stealth weapon that's not really a weapon.

I have an uncommonly large number of boys. Some all boy classes, in fact. I've learned to find stealth weapons hidden in various instrument cupboards...boomwhackers are the best.

~A said...

My fifth graders are a great example of this, too. My boys (three of them in particular) are always moving around, touching things, sitting backwards in chairs... as I observed my co-operating teacher (who is a male), I noticed that he really didn't mind the wandering and moving around, as long as the kids are paying attention. He's a great teacher, and I'm sure that all my active little souls benefit from having him.

Vodka Mom said...

i have ADD as well.

And she kicks butt.

and I now love HER.

(Did you see the PSU logo?)

Teacher Tom said...

Yeah Matt, We start our circle time with me telling them which line is for which. The hardest part is getting the jumping guys to remember not to make motor boat noises while they're doing it! =)