In class, the case for dudes
Posted on February 6th, 2013
o boys aren’t doing so well in the classroom.
You can read the entire thing here and, like writer Christina Hoff Sommers said, it’s hardly news, but this most recent study is the first to document the “gender gap in school grades” beginning so early. Kindergarten, I kid you not.
Oh, boys can take a test. Standardized testing? Forget about it. Boys’ test scores are comparable to or better than that of girls. But the classroom grades for those same boys are consistently lower than that of their female peers.
There are a lot of reasons for this and, like I said, you can read the more formal analysis online at the Times, but I wanted to address just a piece of it as viewed through our personal experience with two-thirds of The Three.
That gender gap you see in classroom performance is reflected in the teaching staff of most schools. There are more women than men in the classroom, period. And while this is neither good nor bad, it stands to reason that this impacts the expectations and administration of your typical class.
How do you serve a bright, loud, wiggly boy? Ask a dude.
We have had empathetic, creative and motivated female teachers. This, gratefully, has been the lion’s share of what we have experienced over the years as our small children have been promoted through their elementary school years.
But we have also experienced women leading classrooms who, on their best days, are mystified by what are largely behavioral norms of the elementary school male. On their worstdays, I have seen women in the classroom whose attitude cast doubt on whether they’d ever encountered a penis they liked.
At some point during second grade, Marcel began spending a good portion of his week outside of the traditional classroom setting. In all of the intervening years, I had one teacher—that’s one—tell me that they would have preferred to have had Marcel remain in class with them instead of doing much of his work elsewhere.
That teacher was a dude.
And in a series of meetings about Roy, an interesting discussion began to take shape. (Well, it would have been more interesting if I hadn’t been so angry at the time but, with the remove of time and distance, sure—it’s a mildly engaging philosophical question.) If you have a (male) child who is capable of more challenging work but is not actively demonstrating the need for it—you know, by setting fires in your trashcan or being otherwise disruptive or by warming the cockles of your dried-up heart by caring deeply about the kindergarten-level work you’ve assigned him despite the fact that he’s a third grader—are you obligated to provide it to him? Our position, in short, was yes. The school’s line: hmmm, not so much.
How do you serve a bright, loud, wiggly boy?
Don’t ask me. I have some guesses, sure; I’m a mother to a couple. But I was a girl in classrooms that rewarded me in large part for being myself. I was attentive and eager to please and would cry as a second grader if I imagined those initials you were writing on the board were mine for some perceived behavioral infraction (they weren’t).
Instead, why don’t you ask some dudes? And while you’re at it, make them teacher dudes. They won’t have all the answers, either, but they’ll have a perspective that simply supersedes whatever loud, outdated gender politics we’re still working out as a society.
And if we’re really serious about bringing out the best in both genders in the class, we’ll get busy recruiting more of them to do the job, too.∗