I get a lot of emails at work. A lot. Many of them are people offering to write guest columns or who want me to review a book or product. And some of them want to sell me paper and plastic injection molds. I got one this week that caught my eye. It's from a PR firm pushing an education expert. The headline: Are We Lazy in Our Approach to Educating Boys?
Dr. Edmond J. Dixon says "our sons are simply falling behind our daughters. But it's not because boys are any less intelligent than girls." He goes on to cite a study from the University of Georgia that followed students as they moved from kindergarten to eighth grade. The study found that though the boys scored well on tests, the girls got better grades, mostly because they "comport" themselves better than boys in the classroom.
My boys don't "act up" in school. The worst thing I ever hear during parent/teacher conferences is that they talk too much. But when they get home, it's a nightmare to get anyone to focus on homework. Mostly it's the 8-year-old (my youngest isn't at "real" school yet). Granted, he's just spent more than six hours sitting (mostly) quietly and focusing at school. And I typically give him 30 minutes or so to unwind before hitting the books. But when it's finally time to get to the homework he can barely keep his rear end in his seat. My middle-schooler (who is incredibly bright) just has trouble focusing on his work for more than 15 minutes. After that he's just bored.
Anyone who has boys can tell you that boys have a hard time sitting still, especially when there's more than one of them. They spend much of their childhood outside of school running and jumping and kicking and wrestling and doing anything else that creates noise and chaos. It doesn't even faze me anymore but it must be a real challenge for a teacher to get a room of 20 or 25 kids to learn anything. We've been very lucky so far. All the elementary school teachers my boys have had have been great with them. But I think it helps that conventional wisdom has changed a bit over the years. Kids used to be labeled "bad." Now teachers are a bit more understanding with students who fidget and bounce and sometimes can't keep their mouths closed and their ears open.
In his book "Helping Boys Learn: Six Secrets for Your Son's Success in School," Dixon offers three secrets: Movement matters, games work, and make them laugh. He says, "When a boy is a toddler, we would never think that a sedentary child is a good indicator of health, so what makes us think that he should change while in grade school?" He also points out that while girls are able to communicate well with each other, boys often use humor to communicate. It stands to reason humor could be a helpful learning tool.
Of course, all of this could be flawed logic on my part. I'm sure Dixon is an expert, but I'm certainly not. I don't know anything about how girls behave. For all I know they spend their weekends jumping up and down on the couch.