Google "boys in education" and your search will provide you with a list of titles that indicate that boys are in crisis in education. There are more boys in special education. There are more boys who fail school. There are more boys who receive discipline at school.
I have a boy myself, and his innate intellectual curiousity, desire for constant motion, aversion to reading, and sharp sense of humor have completely transformed my teaching. He makes me think about the classroom in ways I hadn't before. And while boys are occasionally exhausting (yes, I'm completely generalizing here), oftentimes smelly, and sometimes too bumbly for the classroom, for me, they are incredibly rewarding to teach.
I was reminded this today as I sat in the small room between my classroom and another while the health teacher did "the talk" and showed "the movie"--first to boys and then to girls in my room. On one side of me, the boys entered health class. Desks got bumped into. Somebody complained that one of the boys took his pencil again. Somebody tripped and fell down. Scraping noises and bangs erupted. Loud voices filled the room, overpowering the health teacher's voice. It took them several minutes to get situated and sitting down. Meanwhile, on the other side of me the girls entered French class, where they sang a little French greeting and began to answer the teacher's prompts in sweet, angelic voices well before the boys had even found their seats. I sat and listened to the two different experiences happening, and while the girls sounded much easier to teach, the boys sounded more...real? fun? challenging? I'm not sure, exactly, what it is, but when sixth grade boys come into a room they bring such life with them. It got me thinking about what they bring to an ordinary day...and here are just five small acts of boy wonders today:
1. Birds, long awaited in this cold, damp spring wake me on this Monday morning. I sit in the near dark with a cup of tea, pouring over student papers and my heart swells with pride when I see the quality of one boy's reflection that he is so honestly providing me. I wish I could thank him right then.
2. When our visiting author, Cynthia Lord, passes around her Newberry Honor plaque, she tells the students that if they would like, they can place their hand over the silver emblem and make a wish. I watch a boy, whose fervent desire is to become a writer, quietly place his hand over the emblem, close his eyes, and silently move his lips before passing the plaque to me.
3. At hearing just this morning that a boy is unexpectedly leaving leaving our school, the cafeteria director makes whoopie pies for all of his classmates to say goodbye, and to let him know we'll miss him for an impromptu party after lunch. His classmates gather around him to say kind things and I can tell that this experience is difficult for them.
4. A first grader comes around the corner and bumps into one of my sixth graders--a boy of smaller stature than myself--and says, her eyes as wide as quarters, her voice filled with awe and respect, "Woah. A big kid." The student stands a little taller, realizing that he is looked up to, literally and figuratively. A smile breaks across his face.
5. Thirty kids stand on the edge of a field stretching, their legs covered in goose bumps, their butts wet from the damp ground that they stretched on, and the oldest boys--the leaders of the group--begin a congratulatory cheer for our final track team member coming in from his first run. They let him know--finishing is what counts.
I learn daily from all of my students, but today, I'd just like to pay honor to the boys in our classrooms and lives. They always make things just a little more interesting, and sometimes don't get recognition for that.