Let’s get real: Kids are not wired to sit still.

Boys in particular. 

Forgive me while I vent for a moment. Hasn’t it occurred to enough adults by now that perhaps it’s not the students who are the problem here? That maybe, just maybe, a system that tries to force boys out of developmentally appropriate behaviors is fundamentally flawed? I won’t even rant about the disturbing over-medication of our youth right now. We’ll save that for another post.

The point I want to make is that when it comes to effective education, it’s our responsibility to meet students where they are, not their responsibility to cater to what is most convenient for adults.

That is the burden of our maturity.

We have fully wired brains capable of a level of cognition, forethought, emotional and self-control that kids are only just learning. (Keep in mind, current neuroscience tells us that brains are not completely mature until 25 yrs old).

In order to help kids grow, realize their potential and develop the necessary skills to become competent and independent adults, it is the responsibility of parents and teachers alike to channel their energy and concentration (or lack thereof) as constructively as possible.

In the following post, Jessica Lahey writes a refreshingly self-reflective article. She recently recognized a pattern in her classroom discipline tactics that she is now working to change. In the past year, Jessica handed out almost twice as many written warnings to middle school boys than girls in her Latin and English classes. Of those warnings to boys, all but one were for disruptive classroom behavior. (This basically means the boys struggled to sit still, be quiet and pay attention for long periods of time).

Realizing this gave her pause. Jessica writes, “Something is rotten in the state of boys’ education, and I can’t help but suspect that the pattern I have seen in my classroom may have something to do with a collective failure to adequately educate boys.”

She goes on to discuss a study called Teaching Boys: A Global Study of Effective Practices that was published in 2009, which offers eight helpful categories that succeed in effectively reaching and teaching boys.

“The authors asked teachers and students to ‘narrate clearly and objectively an instructional activity that is especially, perhaps unusually, effective in heightening boys’ learning.’ The responses–2,500 in all–revealed [that] the most effective lessons included more than one of [the following] elements:

  • Lessons that result in an end product–a booklet, a catapult, a poem, or a comic strip, for example.
  • Lessons that are structured as competitive games.
  • Lessons requiring motor activity.
  • Lessons requiring boys to assume responsibility for the learning of others.
  • Lessons that require boys to address open questions or unsolved problems.
  • Lessons that require a combination of competition and teamwork.
  • Lessons that focus on independent, personal discovery and realization.
  • Lessons that introduce drama in the form of novelty or surprise.”

I applaud Jessica’s self-reflection, and how she is seeking out new pedagogical strategies to reach ALL of her students. Just as the first step to changing unwanted habits is noticing what they are in the first place, the first step to working with kids is understanding where they are developmentally, and doing our best to meet them there.

Hats off and deep thanks to every parent, teacher and adult who strives to do this.

 Maureen (Mo) Weinhardt, MS is co-author of the new book, The Everything Parents Guide to Raising Mindful Children, available here.

Read Jessica Lahey’s full article here.

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4 Responses to “Stop Penalizing Boys for Not Being Able to Sit Still”

  1. Thank you so much for reading my work and for the lovely compliments. It should be the goal of every teacher to self-reflect, so thank you for praising that aspect of the article. I love that so many people are talking about this piece and hope the conversation continues!

    • Mo says:

      My pleasure Jessica, thank you for writing your article in the first place! Self-reflection is crucial for teachers & parents alike, otherwise we become trapped by habits that may no longer serve our greater aspirations (or the needs of the kids we care about). Your clarity and honesty in writing about this are important to a greater conversation about teaching pedagogy – thanks for all that you do!

  2. Judy says:

    Great post! It is important for parents & educators to understand that cookie cutter learning techniques don’t result in the best outcomes for kids.

    • Mo says:

      I couldn’t agree more, Judy. One size does not fit it all; teachers require self-reflection and solid professional support in order to meet students where they are, and help them realize their potential. Thanks for your input!

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