February 26, 2013

IN RESPONSE TO MY USA TODAY COLUMN ON BOYS IN SCHOOLS, a reader emails:

I currently work in education in Los Angeles as a researcher and grant evaluator. This often requires me to be at school talking to teachers and students, administering surveys to students, etc. I was actually a school in South Los Angeles (formerly known as South Central) today and I saw an instance of this exact problem: a fifth grade teacher (female) chastised a boy while she read a survey to the students. His crime? Being on question 12 while she was reading question 7. The boy was completing the survey faster than she was reading aloud, and was chastised because he was, in her words, “not with the rest of the class”. Something must be done.

I used to get in trouble for the same thing. Do female teachers want to keep the group functioning more as a group? It would be interesting to see some research on this.

UPDATE: Reader Michael Trigoboff writes:

I was a boy in school.

By the time I got to fifth grade, I was sitting in the back of the room reading science fiction most of the time. Every so often, I’d look up and see what they were up to, catch up on the concepts, and then go back to reading my book. I was doing fine in school, and it wasn’t as boring as it had been before I figured out I could sneak a book in.

One day in fifth grade the female teacher decided she wanted me not to read and to pay attention instead. She was teaching about the four-cycle internal combustion engine. The intake valve opens as the piston moves down, then it closes and the piston moves up to compress the mixture, etc.

Since I had to listen, I got curious about something. “What makes the valves move?” I asked.

You never saw such an expression of sheer terror. She had no idea. I’m sure it had never even occurred to her that there must be something that moves the valves.

I wasn’t trying to freak her out. I was just curious. But not in a way she could handle. After that, she let me read my book in the back of the room…

Heh.