Discipline, Part Three

I’m intrigued by your idea of having children who act out write you an apology letter on the spot. I write this speaking as a former boy who spent a lot of time in trouble in school for “disruptive behavior.” If statistics hold true, roughly 3/4’s of your discipline will likely be directed at boys. Your average boy will be far more physically active than your average girl (hence the discipline ratio) and, at least in the lower grades, less capable of both the fine motor skills and verbal skills necessary to easily write you an apology. It was humiliating enough to be in trouble for reasons I only dimly understood. To then be tortured by having to write, of all things, an apology letter would be doubly bad. Obviously, you’re free to do whatever you think is best in the classroom, but I’d like to suggest a slight variation. Perhaps you could allow the disciplined children to choose the media in which they expresses their apology. Letter, artwork, poem, even a song or dance might resonate better and have a stronger effect on long term behavior. I’ve never tried this and I wonder what some of the implications of an ‘apology dance’ might be, but I can tell you I was gritting my teeth at age fifty-one just thinking about being one of those kids. It’s worth a try, I’d say.

As long as I’m advocating for boys, I’d like to add a couple of quotes:

“Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul.” – Friedrich Froebel (Froebel Web, 1998-2009, para. 2)

“Boys get unfairly labeled as morally defective, hyperactive, undisciplined, or ‘problem children,’ when quite often the problem is not with the boys but with the families, extended families, or social environments, which do not understand their specific needs as human beings and as boys“  – Michael Gurian (Gurian, 1999).

References

Froebel Web. (1998-2009). Friedrich Froebel created Kindergarten. Retrieved February 22, 2010, from http://www.froebelweb.org/

Gurian, M. (1999). The good son: A complete parenting plan. East Rutherford, NJ: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam.

Boys, Part One

There is a problem with boys in our educational system.

Among other disturbing statistics, males enrolled in college as a percentage of the total has dropped steadily from 70% to 42% between 1949 and 2006 (Sax, 2007), boys receive 70 percent of the D’s and F’s on report cards (Kauchak & Eggen, 2005, p. 97), 73.4% of children diagnosed with a learning disability are boys (I Teach I Learn, n.d.), and boys make up 80% of discipline problems (Gurian & Stevens, 2005, p. 22). In the state of California, from 2003 to 2009, consistently across all grades and years, 8% fewer boys than girls scored proficient or better on their California Standards Test English Language Arts exam (California Department of Education, 2010).

Michael Gurian said it very well, “Boys get unfairly labeled as morally defective, hyperactive, undisciplined, or ‘problem children,’ when quite often the problem is not with the boys but with the families, extended families, or social environments, which do not understand their specific needs as human beings and as boys” (Gurian, 1999).

What are those specific needs? That is a subject much larger than the scope of this post. However, in general, boys have more need for physical movement and are interested in different subject matter than girls. Developmentally, they tend to be slower and/or different in many regards, especially as it relates to lateralization and language and emotional processing.

We cannot and should not change our learning expectations. There is much room, however, to change the classroom environment and add new teaching tools to our inventory to better accommodate the way boys learn.

References

California Department of Education. (2010). Standardized testing and reporting (STAR) results. Retrieved February 19, 2010, from http://star.cde.ca.gov/

Gurian, M. (1999). The good son: A complete parenting plan. East Rutherford, NJ: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam.

Gurian, M., & Stevens, K. (2005). The Minds of Boys. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

I Teach I Learn. (n.d.). Gender as a factor in special education eligibility, services, and results . Retrieved February 19, 2010, from http://www.iteachilearn.com/uh/meisgeier/statsgov20gender.htm

Kauchak, P., & Eggen, P. (2005). Introduction to teaching: Becoming a professional  (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

Sax, L. (2007). Boys adrift: The five factors driving the growing epidemic of unmotivated boys and underachieving young men . New York, NY: Basic Books.