Here are two scenarios that may shed some light.
Grade one male student sent to the Principal’s office by a primary school teacher who is frustrated with the student for not sitting still and not paying attention in class. This young male student has been sent to the office on a number of occasions. The teacher is very upset and wanting extra support to deal with what she feels is a disruptive and overly exuberant student. In fact, if possible the teacher would like to see this student moved to another class.
While in the Principal’s office, the student had no difficulty completing work provided by the teacher. In fact, the student completed the work quickly and correctly with no disruption or problem. The Principal noticed that once the student had completed his work, he became distracted. He started asking the Principal questions and he kept getting up from his desk.
Grade one male student comes home from school so positive about his school day. He is so excited because he loves his teacher. Throughout the day the teacher provides all students with the opportunity to exercise each hour of the day. In addition, as part of the daily curriculum, the teacher has set up learning centers where students get to actively explore and experience. One center is a building center where students have odd shapes of wood, wood blocks and small hammers where they can explore and build structures. The students can also go to the centers when they finish their assigned work correctly.
As an educator for thirty-five years, these two scenarios are not uncommon. In fact, in every school I taught at and was a school principal at, these scenarios were played out every day.
And this situation actually happened in the school I was a principal.
What is interesting about scenario one and two is that both involved the same young male grade one student. The difference was the teacher in each scenario.
After extensive classroom observation, support and assistance in helping the student become less disruptive in the scenario one class, the child was eventually moved to the teacher’s class described in scenario two.
Same student. Different teacher.
A disengaged student who completed his work without problems, in fact, could complete his schoolwork quickly and correctly. He became bored and wanted more to do. That is when he became disruptive. The teacher did not provide additional learning opportunities for her students.
An engaged and active student who was able to move on to other activities following the completion of his work was provided with an opportunity each hour to move and to interact with his classmates. He did not engage in disruptive behavior as the teacher structured her instruction as much as possible to meet her students’ needs.
It was quite clear why this young male student was successful in scenario two. It was the teacher’s ability to be able to meet the instructional needs of the students in her classroom. She was able to structure her teaching strategies and learning opportunities for all of her students to succeed whether male or female.
To me, the real issue behind the growing problem with young males disengaging from school is about investment.
It is not a male or female thing. It is about investing in our teachers.
It is about whether the classroom teacher has the knowledge, ability, skill, and talent to avoid implementing a “one size fits all” curriculum and learning situation as there appeared to be in the scenario one teacher’s class.
It is not easy for teachers to plan for and then implement a learning environment and teaching strategies to meet the needs of all learners. It takes time and it takes a significant investment on the part of school districts, schools and all educators to train, coach and mentor teachers in planning for and implementing classrooms where teachers do everything they can to meet the needs of their students.
The investment is worth it though. As educators, as parents, and as community members our kids deserve it no matter at what age or ability level.
I think we all would want our son or daughter to come home loving his or her teacher. Just like the male student who came home sharing his love for school and his new teacher.
For the love of our kids whether male or female let’s invest in our teachers. Let’s create schools and classrooms where teachers are properly equipped to do what they are entrusted to do. To teach each all of our kids.